Regional News in Review – December 2015

Pay-for-performance program awards $9.5 million across the state Nursing homes throughout Minnesota will launch a variety of quality improvement efforts – leading […]

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Pay-for-performance program awards

$9.5 million across the state Nursing homes throughout Minnesota will launch a variety of quality improvement efforts – leading to outcomes such as better sleep, fewer falls, less depression and lower staff turnover—with a total of $9.5 million in funding through a Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) program.

Under the Performance-based Incentive Payment Program, nursing homes sign contracts with DHS to earn higher payments for implementing projects designed to make improvements in key areas they identify themselves. The funding is for the next one to three years.

“Projects designed by the nursing homes have been shown over the years to improve quality not just in targeted areas, such as mental health and improved mobility, but to improve nursing home quality overall,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson Jesson visited St. Benedict’s Senior Community in St. Cloud to learn how the CentraCare Collaborative will use a total of $400,000 in program, funding for a restorative sleep program at St. Benedict’s and CentraCare Collaborative’s other nursing facilities in Melrose, Monticello and Sauk Center. Strategies to promote more restful sleep will include new lighting, noise reduction and use of sleep monitoring technology to assess residents’ sleep patterns.

Other facilities receive funding October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2018. Another program funded is at Golden Living Center in Henning, which will receive a total of $40,000 to develop a mentorship program aimed at reducing the turnover of certified nursing assistants and increasing job satisfaction. The outcome of the project will be measured by worker retention rates.

Hayes Residence in St. Paul will receive a total of $68,000 to implement a mood improvement project for a younger population through the use of therapeutic communication, a therapeutic art program, technology and other activities. The facility will measure the incidence of worsening or serious resident behavior problems to determine the impact of the project.

Oak Terrace Health Care Center in Gaylord will receive $110,000 for an organization culture change project emphasizing person-centered care. Quality of life survey responses to questions related to relationships, satisfaction and mood will be used to measure the outcome of the project.

Other grant winners include facilities in Willmar, Cook, Crystal, Lake Park, Graceville, Duluth, Grand Rapids, Greeley, Henning, Lake Ridge, Olivia, St. Louis Park, Whitewater, Lynwood, Twin Rivers, New Hope, Battle Lake, Brainerd,, Inver Grove Heights, Maplewood, Stillwater, Waconia, St. Paul, Paynesville, Roseau, Greenbush, Jordan, Red Wing, Faribault, Rochester, Karlstad, Tracy, Truman, Woodbury, Minneapolis, Forest Lake, Barnesville, Grand Meadow, Mabel, Bemidji, Thief River Falls, Buffalo, Waite Park, Little Falls and Inver Grove Heights.



‘Intractable pain’ added to cannabis program

After 15 years of constant pain from nerve damage sustained in a biking accident that paralyzed him “from the armpits down,” David Lambert said an expansion of the medical cannabis program has the potential to transform his life. Last month Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger announced that intractable pain will be added to the narrow list of conditions allowed to utilize Minnesota’s medical cannabis program. Those diagnosed with intractable pain can start receiving medical cannabis treatments on August 1, 2016. The change is expected to add thousands of patients to the program.

So far, only 760 people statewide have signed up for the program, which has been affected by high prices and a limited pool of patients. Minnesota currently limits its program to treating one of just nine conditions, making it one of the most restrictive medical cannabis programs in the country.

Minnesota Medical Solutions CEO Kyle Kingsley, whose organization operates a medical cannabis dispensary in Rochester, said the announcement marks “a big day for patients in Minnesota.” He emphasized that, despite the expansion, Minnesota’s standards for defining intractable pain is more limited than other states so it wouldn’t lead to a “free-for-all situation like Colorado.”

“I’ve tried every other possible method over many years,” Lambert said. “Marijuana improves my life a lot. It allows me to be out of bed a lot more. It allows me to spend more time with my wife than I usually can (because of the pain).” (Source: Rochester Post-Bulletin)



PCAs’ right to organize upheld

Personal care attendants have won a victory in their fight to unionize. The 8th Circuit U.S Court of Appeals
December 3 upheld the lower court ruling in the case of Greene versus Dayton, reiterating the right of home care workers in Minnesota to continue organizing through the State Employees International (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota. The case was heard earlier this fall.

Sumer Spika, a mother from St. Paul who works in home care and is a vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, said union advocates are pleased with the court’s decision. “We are very excited to put this particular lawsuit behind us and continue our work to improve our industry for thousands of families across Minnesota. But we know there are other legal attacks still being made against our right to organize improved standards for home care workers and clients, including in the Bierman versus Dayton case, and we will not let any court challenge stop us from moving forward.”

Spika said that while she is proud of the gains the group made with its first contract, it has many more steps before it can get from $11 to $15 per hour. She said it is important that personal care be treated as a career and not as a temporary job. “Our work, done predominantly by women and people of color, has been undervalued for far too long. With our union, we are beginning to fight back and ensure that workers and the people we serve have a voice, and we won’t let any lawsuit stop us. We are glad that this particular lawsuit is behind us as we move forward in our work to improve the lives of thousands of families across our state,” she said.

No decision on an appeal has been announced.

Those who oppose unionization contend it is a right to work issue. (Source: SEIU Healthcare Minnesota)



Computer access program saved

Comcast has stepped in save Internet service that about 8,500 households in the Twin Cities were about to lose. The service is used by elders, people with disabilities and low-income families.

PCs for People is a nonprofit that offers refurbished computers to people in need. For years the nonprofit has also offered Internet services to thousands of low-income Twin Citians through a wireless-data network from Sprint. When Sprint suddenly announced it was shutting down its outdated network in early November, PCs for People Executive Director Casey Sorensen scrambled to keep his clients connected.

Comcast’s “Internet Essentials” offers high-speed home Internet for $10 a month, plus free Wi-Fi, free installation and free Internet training. No contract or credit check is required which sets it apart from other providers, Sorensen said. Those who need service are clamoring to sign up. One registration event in St. Paul drew more than 100 families. (Source: Star Tribune)


Jesson moves to state appeals court

Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will fill a vacancy on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Gov. Mark Dayton announced the appointment December 4. Jesson has led the largest state government department since 2011. DHS has a $36 million budget and 6,200 employees.

In a news release Dayton said that Jesson did a superb job managing the department. “Her impeccable qualifications for this position speak for themselves,” Dayton said. “I am certain she will bring the same measure of excellence to the Minnesota Court of Appeals as she has demonstrated during her service at the Department of Human Services.”

Jesson expressed gratitude for the new opportunity, telling Minnesota Public Radio that public service has always been the cornerstone of her career. She was one of two state appeals court judges appointed this month.

She has led the agency through a number of major program and policy changes. She was commissioner during major work on the Olmstead Plan, which lays out how the state will best integrate people with disabilities into all aspects of community life. (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)



Insurance notices cause panic

Hundreds of Minnesotans with disabilities received cancellation notices for their state-funded health insurance. County social workers were flooded with panicked calls from people with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities who received cancellation notices after missing their November premium payments. More than 2,300 people statewide have received cancellation notices.

The changes affect Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities, or MA-EPD. The program is meant to encourage work by permitting people with disabilities by paying a premiums to retain low-cost medical insurance while earning more money than is normally allowed under the state plan. About 9,000 Minnesotans are enrolled in MA-EPD. State officials said the notices resulted in a change in payment dates, from mid-month to the fourth. Coverage can be reinstated if people pay by the end of December. But the notices upset many people. Kim Michals of South St. Paul, who has bipolar and borderline personality disorders, recalls “feeling panicked” and “sinking into a desperate state of anxiety,” after receiving his cancellation notice in the mail last week.

Although state officials reached out to inform community members of the change, county social workers warned of large numbers of cancellations. “We freaked out” after learning of the changes, said Jackie Poidinger, a program manager for Hennepin County.  “This is a pretty vulnerable population to just cut them off. For us, we knew we had to get more proactive.” (Source: Star Tribune)



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