Regional News in Review - June 2016

Detroit Lakes facility is faulted

A state investigation into the death of a vulnerable adult at Lakes Homes and Program Development Inc. in Detroit Lakes determined the facility failed to perform CPR when staff found the resident unresponsive with glazed over cloudy pupils, no pulse, a blue mouth and airways containing vomit. THE Minnesota Department of human Services investigated the incident and issued its findings last month.

The resident was developmental disabled, had health issues and was in a weakened condition. At one point the resident curled up in a ball on the floor, complaining of stomach pain. A second staff person found the resident unresponsive one hour later, according to the state report. The resident was taken to the hospital but later died.

State officials found that facility staff failed to perform CPR and found evidence of neglect. A facility spokesperson told Minnesota Public Radio that two staff members involved in the incident
are no longer employed by the provider. Lakes Homes and Program Development has several locations in Fergus Falls, Mahnomen and Detroit Lakes. In another facility last year, state officials issued another investigative memorandum finding neglect and maltreatment in response to another death in a separate group home operated by the same provider. (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)

 

Red Wing couple helping children

A $10,000 donation will help a newly formed nonprofit organization take the effort of helping children with disabilities abroad. Disability Support International started in January to “advocate, support and empower” children with disabilities and those working to help those children in developing countries. Founders Jennie and Mick Wendland of Red Wing have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of children with disabilities through their work as special education teachers.

Jennie Wendland became interested in disability issues when she lived in Cambodia. She also grew up with a sibling with disabilities. “I saw some people that were trying to help children with disabilities and just saw the inequality between what children have in countries like that and what they have here.”

The $10,000 donated will go partly to the travel expenses of volunteers going to Cambodia this summer and to business development efforts, such as developing a website, expanding the board of directors and hiring staff to handle communications, marketing and finance for the organization.

In order to cater to specific countries and the issues that citizens in those countries face, nonprofit volunteers will do specific research on the culture and exact needs of the country when it comes to children with disabilities, in order to bring sustainable support and results.

“We’re not pretending that we have all of the answers because these problems are so intertwined in so many things,” she said. “Stigmas behind disabilities and the situation of poverty are so embedded in a lot of what happens.”

Recognizing that each developing country has a unique culture and therefore unique needs, the nonprofit is working to create a culture liaison committee that studies the different aspects of the country before volunteers of the organization travel to that specific country. It will start working in Cambodia this summer, working with a network of organizations that serve children with autism and cognitive disabilities. Volunteers will also work with an orphanage to plan for its future needs. That work will help build a foundation for future trips to other countries.

After moving to Red Wing in the summer of 2015, the Wendlands became acquainted with Judy Hammes, a recently retired special education paraprofessional at Red Wing High School. Hammes said she was encouraged by the couple’s enthusiasm and donated the startup funds.

To learn more, visit the group’s website(Source: Rochester Post-Bulletin)

 

Old hospital may be transformed

Estimates to transform part of the old Anoka State Hospital into 33 modern apartments for veterans would cost $11.5 million in construction costs, or more than $330,000 per apartment. That amount, which would buy a large home nearby, has raised the eyebrows of some commissioners in Anoka County, which owns the site.

But officials with CommonBond Communities, the nonprofit group that transformed Fort Snelling’s Upper Post stables and warehouses into comfortable veterans’ homes, said they can do the same with three boarded-up state hospital buildings near the banks of the Rum River. And it won’t cost Anoka County a dime.

In 2014 county officials sought a permit from the city of Anoka to tear down the century-old complex in 2014. The county covers the annual cost of keeping the buildings secured. But city officials didn’t want to see the historic properties leveled. A new use had to be sought. “If the buildings can be salvaged and they can be used for good, I am supportive as long as it’s not borne by the taxpayers of Anoka County,” County Commissioner Scott Schulte told the Star Tribune. The linchpin for the renovation is state and federal historic and low-income tax credits that could help secure nearly $8.5 million, according to CommonBond’s projections.

CommonBond Senior Project Manager Andrew Michaelson said the buildings, built in the first decade of the 1900s, can be saved and restored. “To me, it’s a compelling project,” he said. “The city and county wanted a veterans’ use. We are taking buildings sitting vacant. We will take over the upkeep cost and bring them back on the tax rolls.”

CommonBond already has spent nearly $25,000 on preliminary work with a general contractor, architects and historical consultants. They’ve gone into the renovation with a full understanding of the many challenges that add zeros to the project, such as complicated roof pitches, and lead and asbestos abatement. The hospital, which is more than a century old, housed people who were mentally ill. (Source: Star Tribune) 

 

ABLE investment accounts coming soon

Minnesotans with disabilities and their families will benefit from the investment power of an eight-state consortium in saving for disability-related expenses. Minnesota is among 40 states whose lawmakers approved tax-free savings accounts under the federal achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The legislation promotes employment and quality of life for people with disabilities by ensuring that earnings and other funds saved in ABLE accounts don’t count against eligibility for public programs, including Medical Assistance and Social Security Supplemental Income. The accounts will be available this fall.

“The ABLE Act allows people with disabilities and their families to save funds for education, assistive technology, housing, transportation and other goods and services not included in public benefits,” said Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper. “Many people living with disabilities want to work and build earnings and families also want to contribute funds that can be used to maintain health, independence and quality of life.”

Currently people with disabilities can lose eligibility for public benefits once they reach $2,000 in savings. Contributions to ABLE accounts of up to $14,000 per year are allowed under current rules. The account could grow to as much as $100,000 before some public benefits would be suspended.

Minnesota joins Alaska, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Pennsylvania in the consortium, which will manage an investment portfolio similar to tax-advantaged accounts for college savings. Unlike college savings plans that draw hundreds of thousands of participants, ABLE account participation is too limited for each state to have a viable program. By pooling resources, states can attract quality investment products and lower costs. The consortium’s next step is to seek public bids for investment services, record keeping and marketing services. (Source: Minnesota DHS)