Regional News in Review – March 2014

Families feel shortchanged by changes Minnesota is overhauling its system for determining how to direct $1.7 billion toward caring for […]

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Families feel shortchanged by changes

Minnesota is overhauling its system for determining how to direct $1.7 billion toward caring for people with disabilities, so that they can live more independently. The state is moving from a system of 87 counties setting rates to a statewide system. Loren Colman, assistant commissioner of the state Department of Human Services, said some providers were paid more than others, depending on where the recipient lived. But that is changing.

“That’s the root of the problem—that there has not been a uniform way to look at the needs of the individual and calculate what are the costs associated with providing those services,” Colman told Minnesota Public Radio.

Seven years ago the federal government said the patchwork system made Minnesota out of compliance with federal regulations. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services required the state to move from a county-based system to a statewide one. The new rate-setting tool began January 1. But since then service providers and families have struggled with changes in funding levels.

Service providers and their clients are gradually learning whether their individual rates are projected to go up or down. In the Twin Cities metro area, some providers say the vast majority of changes they’re

seeing suggest the payments will be going down. Some families have lost one-third or more of funding for programs such as group homes and day training. Advocates for people with disabilities said lower rates would mean fewer services. (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)




Mental illness crisis team provides help

A team of professionals including psychiatric nurses and drug counselors, along with adult peer support specialists, can come to the doorsteps of Twin-Cities teens as they learn to live with mental illness.

At a time when most counties in Minnesota suffer chronic shortages of mental health services and long waiting lists at residential psychiatric facilities, the goal of the new Assertive Community Treatment, or ACT group, is to intervene early and keep teens from  needing institutional care.

“This is really to see if we can catch those young people before they are inundated with the system, before they are in state mental health hospitals or … incarcerated,”

Diane Ferreira, ACT program manager for People Incorporated, told the Star Tribune. People Incorporated is running one of four Minnesota teams formed to help young patients.

The team approach has been used nationally to keep mentally ill adults from needing institutional care, or to expedite their moves out of institutions by giving them support back home. The latest Minnesota data show adults spending 60 percent less time in institutions the year after they receive ACT support compared with the year before. Applying the approach to struggling teens is new in Minnesota. It has been tried in only a handful of states.

People Incorporated got state approval to form a youth ACT team after lawmakers voted in 2011 to allow public programs such as Medical Assistance to pay for it.

A similar team for youth in Ramsey and Dakota counties has been formed by Guild Inc. Two other agencies have created teams in northeast and southeast Minnesota. (Source: Star Tribune)




Guardian decision changes eyed

Minnesota has long given guardians the legal authority to have their wards disconnected from life-support technology. That could change as a result of a Minnesota Supreme Court hearing in February. The court heard arguments as to whether or not court approval should be required for end-of-life decisions.

Guardian cases rarely are discussed by the state’s highest court. The issue centers on the case of the late Jeffers Tschumy. Tschumy, who was developmentally disabled, was under guardianship starting in 2008. He suffered severe brain damage after choking on food in 2012. Tschumy had no family and no health care directive.

Allina Health System asked that a Hennepin County judge allow Tschumy to be removed from life support, either by clarifying that his guardian or the court could make the decision. The court authorized the life-support cutoff but denied the guardian’s request for the sole power to make that decision. Tschumy died in May 2012 a few days after the order was issued. In 2013, the state Court of Appeals reversed Hennepin County’s ruling, reasoning that end-of-life decisions shouldn’t be dictated by the court.

People on both sides of the issue packed the hearing room. When attorney Bob McLeod said that the current system has worked well and without controversy, Justice Barry Anderson cut him off, saying that an absence of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean it is working. But McLeod countered that court approval could hamper and add anguish to an already difficult process.

“Guardians act in the best interest of the ward,” he said. “It’s what they need to do. It’s what they must do.” It’s not known when the court will rule. (Source: Star Tribune)




Snow affects paratransit, parking

Metro Mobility, which operates para-transit services in the Twin Cities region, has asked riders to be mindful of winter weather when scheduling trips this winter. Riders have been asked to reschedule non-urgent trips when they can, due to high demand for service coupled with poor street conditions.

“Metro Mobility typically provides an average of 6,400 rides per day,” said Metro Mobility Manager Andrew Krueger. “So far this winter, we’ve had several days where we topped 7,000 rides. High demand for service, combined with the wintry conditions, results in delays and longer trips for customers.”

Metro Mobility is also asking everyone who uses its service to make sure sidewalks, steps and driveways are clear of snow and ice to safely and reliably give customers a ride.

“We need people to shovel,” said Krueger. “Sidewalks and steps that are snow and ice covered are dangerous for passengers, as well as the drivers who escort them. The lack of safe, cleared spaces also slows down our service, making passengers late for their appointments and drivers late for the next customer.” Metro Mobility is asking everyone to make sure that areas are cleared not only for passengers and drivers, but for their vehicle lifts.

The winter weather also is affecting parking in many cities, with Minneapolis and St. Paul imposing one-side street parking bans and other cities enforcing winter regulations. For information, check with individual city offices. (Source: Metro Mobility)




Lowertown ballpark gets kudos

Plans for a new baseball park in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood are winning high marks from people with disabilities. The plans for the new ballpark, which will replace old Midway Stadium in 2015, show 70 wheelchair spots, as well as 70 padded, movable folding chairs for friends, family or caregivers. Another 180 seats are for fans with limited mobility. Those seats will provide at least 24 inches of legroom, and they’ll be at the same elevation as the concourse.

City and St. Paul Saints officials have said their intent is to exceed code requirements established by the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act, Standards for Accessible Design. The ballpark, which will be used by the minor league team, prep, college and other teams, may be one of the most accessible facilities in the country.

Plans also call for ADA-accessible entrances and vehicle drop-offs, clearer signage marked with Braille and color contrasted directions, four elevators, and 10 single-occupant restrooms. Annie Huidekoper, vice -president of community partnerships for the Saints, told the Pioneer Press, “The Lowertown Ballpark will be wonderfully accessible.”

Information about the ballpark construction timeline and design is at (Source: Pioneer Press)

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