Regional News in Review – May 2014

  Treatment of patron, service dog results in lawsuit A federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act […]

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Treatment of patron, service dog results in lawsuit

A federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been filed against a north Minneapolis McDonald’s restaurant. Robert Mingo, 52, of Minneapolis, contends that on two occasions, he and his service dog met resistance when they entered the restaurant and tried to order food to eat there. Mingo has muscular dystrophy and chronic back ailments. He cannot walk and has limited use of his arms and hands. He uses a wheelchair and has a four-year-old service dog, Max. The border collie-springer spaniel mix helps Mingo with many daily duties, such as opening and closing doors, picking up laundry and removing clothing.

In both instances, Mingo was eventually served food at the McDonald’s franchise on W. Broadway near Bryant Avenue N. But in the second instance he was mocked by a manager and told not to eat in the dining area. When Mingo pointed out what the law allows, the manager said, “I am the law.” That drew laughter from other customers.

Mingo has sued franchise owner Tim Baylor and the global McDonald’s corporation in federal court. He is seeking unspecified damages and requirements that company employees be trained and educated about the ADA.

In a statement, Baylor said that he takes “complaints like this seriously [and] we do our best to provide a great customer experience to every customer.” Baylor, however, would not address Mingo’s specific allegations. (Source: Star Tribune)




Courage Kenny, Allina face lawsuit

Despite repeated warnings, staff and security personnel at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley didn’t prevent a convicted sex offender from assaulting a vulnerable adult and even encouraged him to participate in her therapy sessions, according to a lawsuit filed in April. The lawsuit was filed in Hennepin County District Court. It seeks damages of $50,000 or more. The lawsuit names Courage Kenny and its parent company, Allina health System, as defendants. A third defendant is Hannon Security Services.

In a statement, Allina said it takes “what steps we can to keep patients safe while they are in our care including appropriate policies related to visitors who come to our facilities. We are vigorously defending against these allegations. There is no allegation that any employee of Allina or Courage Kenny engaged in inappropriate conduct with a patient.”

Corey Gordon, 42, was charged last year with sexually assaulting the woman in December 2012. Court documents allege he posed as a personal care attendant, duping security for months, and slipped into assisted dressing rooms with the brain-damaged woman. A family member had warned staff of Gordon’s behavior.

“Sexual abuse is horrific in any situation. But to have it occur at Courage Kenny, where vulnerable adults are supposed to be safe, is a tragedy,” Minneapolis attorney Lori Peterson told the Star Tribune. She filed the suit on behalf of the family of the woman Gordon is charged with assaulting. “Courage Kenny/Allina was repeatedly warned about sexual predators abusing vulnerable adults, yet did nothing to stop it.”

Gordon has a troubled past according to public records and he has posed as a personal care attendant in the past to harass people with disabilities.  (Source: Star Tribune)




Parent wants book removed

A parent in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District wants a book taken from the district’s elementary school libraries because it uses a term for people with cognitive disabilities that is considered to be derogatory. The book, Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements, will be reviewed by a school district committee in May. The committee could ban the book outright or place restrictions on its availability.

The complaint was made by Farmington resident Jenna Boutain, a Farmington resident and district employee who works with students with special needs. The book was given to her child as part of an accelerated reading list.

The book is about Helen, a sixth-grader with a learning disability. It was first published in 1985. The book uses the “R” word to describe students with developmental disabilities. The word has been the focus of a campaign to ban its use.

“As a whole, I feel the book is outdated and uses language that is no longer acceptable,” Boutain wrote in her request. “This book serves no educational purpose besides keeping words and behaviors in the minds of our students.” (Source: Pioneer Press)




Judge tells Congress of program woes

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Hennepin County District Judge Jay Quam said the criminal justice system fails adults with mental illness. Quam urged lawmakers to pass legislation to strengthen mental health programs across the country.

“People with mental health conditions are brought to jail far too often, they too often languish there, and there is danger in keeping them there,” said Quam, who has presided over Hennepin County Mental Health Court.

In April, Quam lobbied for passage of the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act. Authored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), the bill would authorize $40 million to extend funding for mental health courts for five years, and law enforcement crisis intervention teams. It would also offer veterans better screening for mental health problems stemming from trauma and chemical dependency. Police academies would be able to improve training programs for new officers on effective responses to mentally ill people they encounter on the street. Increased screening services would be used to better evaluate the mental health of new inmates

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bill last fall. But the legislation has since stalled .

In Minnesota, the criminal justice system cycles the mentally ill in and out of lockups because of backlogs in the state commitment process and a critical shortage of space in psychiatric facilities, Quam said. “We need to fund programs that divert people with mental health conditions from jail at every stage of the criminal justice system.” (Source: Star Tribune)




South St. Paul man gets new home

In the hospital room, weeks after he came out of his coma, Cheryl Young made a promise to her son, Zach Mohs. Young told her son, who had been injured in a hit-and-run accident in September 2012, she would find him a new home.

In April they were settling into a South St. Paul home with the rest of their family. Many volunteers and donations helped get the house built. Now Mohs can easily move through it with his power wheelchair. Work will continue in the future with installation of a lift, so Mohs can get to a basement fitness area and work out. He is now walking with the help of a walker.

Mohs, 28, was critically injured in the accident, which happened in Alaska. He lost a leg and sustained a brain injury and broken bones. His mother had to quit her job to care for him. Last year in the midst of his rehabilitation, Young was diagnosed with cancer.

Rebuilding Together Twin Cities, a nonprofit that coordinates volunteers to help renovate homes for families in need, helped the family, as did the Builders Association of the Twin Cities. General contractor Jon Anderson also stepped in to help. (Source: Pioneer Press)




National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2014 theme set

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the 2014 official theme of National Disability Employment Awareness Month: “Expect. Employ. Empower.” Observed in October, the month marks a nationwide campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and honors the many diverse contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

“We all have a role to play in—and benefit to gain from—increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez. “This year’s theme encapsulates this in three powerful words. It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring. It’s about creating a continuum of inclusion. And the first step on this continuum is expectation.”

Starting in 1945, Congress declared the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was deleted to acknowledge the needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and adopted its current name. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor)




More content moving to redesigned DHS public website

Direct care and treatment, substance abuse and problem gambling content recently moved within the DHS website. The move is part of the redesign of the department’s public website to improve its usability. To help website users find content, DHS will temporarily redirect key links. If users have bookmarked this content or added it to favorites, they will need to update these links.

The new content is located in the People We Serve section, which is content primarily for clients of DHS programs and services. With this additional content, website users can begin to see the consistent navigation that is being implemented in this section. Consistent, predictable navigation improves website usability by reducing the learning curve for website visitors navigating within the People We Serve section. (Source: Minnesota Department of Human Services)




Learn about rail safety

Elected officials, Metro Transit Police and St. Paul Police have announced a coordinated campaign of education and enforcement to promote safety along the METRO Green Line. The announcement was made at the Snelling Avenue Station in St. Paul. Green Line light-rail trains will soon begin full-schedule testing, running as often as every 10 minutes throughout the day. During this period—leading up to opening day on June 14—rail operators will become certified on the line and rail systems will undergo final testing.

St. Paul Police and Metro Transit Police will conduct a corresponding campaign of safety education and enforcement in St. Paul. The campaign targets both motorists and pedestrians and focuses on obeying traffic and crossing signals at intersections along the line, and properly using mid-block crossings and yielding to pedestrians.

“The beginning of light-rail service in St. Paul is now less than eight weeks away,” said St. Paul City Council Member Russ Stark. “This partnership raises safety awareness for our residents and visitors as we count down to opening day.”

Officers will conduct dedicated patrols in squads, on bicycles and on foot along University Avenue and in downtown St. Paul. The coordinated effort focuses on peak travel times, but motorists and pedestrians can anticipate seeing officers at all times of day. “Our focus will be safety education and engagement, but we will issue citations, if necessary, as we monitor motorist and pedestrian activity closely,” said St. Paul Police Western District Senior Commander Paul Iovino.

“Green Line safety information and videos are also available here.  (Source: Metro Transit)




Veterans’ home sought for Beltrami County

While the U.S. Department of Defense plans to reduce the U.S. military to pre- World War II levels, veterans from that war and other conflicts need a veterans’ home in greater Minnesota. Slow progress by the federal government is hindering development on the state and county levels, according to officials around the state.

Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene and co-chair Ralph Morris hosted a Minnesota Veterans Home Task Force meeting in Bemidji recently to spotlight the needs of aging veterans.

“The problem is not our proposed home in northern Minnesota or Bemidji, it’s that we aren’t serving vets anywhere,”said Beltrami County Commissioner Jim Lucachick. “That’s the message we have to send to Washington D.C.”

But despite the need, a veterans’ home in Bemidji is a few years off. A nursing home for veterans in the Twins Cities must be completed before plans can move forward in Greater Minnesota, and then a federal funding match needs to be received.

There are 3,212 veterans living in Beltrami County alone. Many are older and have disabilities, and would welcome a veterans’ home. County officials said that regardless of where a veteran comes from, if they are a veteran in Beltrami County requesting services, they will be helped. Lucachick said a site has been donated for a veterans’ home in Bemidji and having Sanford Bemidji Medical Center in the city is a benefit to locating a home there. (Source: Bemidji Pioneer)



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