Regional News in Review - November 2014

Action on transportation delayed

Citing a need for more time to review comments and possible ordinance changes, the St. Paul City Council has delayed action on alternative transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft. The council hearing, which was set for October, has been postponed to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 19 at St. Paul City Hall.

The city currently has no regulations for such services. Disability community members as well as traditional taxicab companies have raised concerns about no regulation. Concerns about accessibility, as the services use drivers’ personal vehicles, insurance, driver training and driver background checks

Minneapolis passed its alternative transportation company regulations earlier this year. One concern raised in that city was over easing accessibility regulations for traditional taxi companies, as a tradeoff of sorts for allowing the new companies to operate. (Source: Access Press staff)

 

 

 

Changes in providers announced

Metro Mobility and Transit Link customers in Dakota County will change transportation providers beginning November 9. Metro Mobility, the regional transportation service for people with disabilities, is overseen by Metropolitan Council. It is operated by providers under contract with the council and riders must be certified.

Due to a contract change, Metro Mobility customers in Dakota County will transition from DARTS to either First Transit or Transit Team, depending on where they live in the county. DARTS, which began years ago as Dakota Area Rapid Transit, was found to have committed a number of violations and lost its longtime contract with Metropolitan Council recently.

First Transit will be the provider for customers living in Lilydale, West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Mendota, Mendota Heights, Sunfish Lake, Inver Grove Heights, and the portion of Eagan north of Diffley Road. Transit Team will be the provider for customers living in Burnsville, Apple Valley, Rosemount, and the portion of Eagan south of Diffley Road.

The provider of Transit Link service will be Midwest Paratransit Services. Transit Link is a dial-a-ride bus service for the general public, serving locations where regular route service is not available.

“We will make every effort to make this transition as seamless and simple as possible for customers,” said Gerri Sutton, the Council’s assistant director of Metropolitan Transportation Services. “We have every confidence that customers will receive safe, reliable service, but we also ask for patience as we all adjust to some change.”

Metro Mobility customers who experience service issues during the transition, or at any time, are asked to contact Customer Services at 651-602-1111 (TTY 651-221-9886) between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Or, email the service at metromobility@metc.state.mn.us Transit Link customers who have questions or comments are encouraged to call the council at 651-602-5465 (option 9) or email transitlink@metc.state.mn.us (Source: Metropolitan Council)

 

 

Monitor raises concerns about restraints

Despite promises to end such practices, Minnesotans with disabilities continue to face harsh disciplinary techniques, including life-threatening prone restraints and seclusion. That was detailed in October in a 57-page report filed by a federal court monitor. In response, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) pledged to eliminate the practice — except in emergency cases, such as danger of physical harm — at all state-licensed programs and facilities that care for people with disabilities.

The monitor’s report and the state response were detailed by the Star Tribune. The court monitor is involved in the ongoing court case that centered on practices at the now-closed Minnesota Extended Treatment Options facility in Cambridge.

State officials told the Star Tribune that the use of physical restraints has dropped sharply in the last year and that they are taking other steps to improve care for those with physical and mental disabilities. “This is a massive undertaking and a critical one,” said Lucinda Jesson, state commissioner of human services. She has ordered an investigation into at least one case.

The court monitor found that the practices still persist at community programs and group homes for the developmentally disabled. Statewide, a total of 963 people with disabilities were physically restrained between July 2013 and September of this year. In addition, 40 people were mechanically restrained and 70 were placed in seclusion rooms over the same period, according to his report.

At the same time, Jesson said, the state has made substantial progress toward phasing out use of mechanical restraints and seclusion. Incidents at state-licensed programs have dropped by about 80 percent between July 2013 and September, according to DHS. The agency has also launched an ambitious training effort, in which thousands of county and state employees and providers statewide have participated in workshops and online courses on how to provide positive care without the use of restraint and seclusion. Even so, large providers say it can take years to phase out the practices in group homes and programs that help disabled people live and work in the community. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

 

 

Board on Aging publishes guide

The Minnesota Board on Aging has just published its 2015 edition of Health Care Choices for Minnesotans on Medicare booklet. Now in its sixth edition, the annual guide contains comprehensive information about Medicare health care plan options in Minnesota.

“Health Care Choices is a useful resource for older adults and family members making decisions during the Medicare open enrollment, which runs October 15 through December 7, 2014,” said Jean Wood, executive director of the Minnesota Board on Aging. “After December 7, a change can only be made in a few special circumstances so it is important to use this time to make the best decision possible. Any changes made will take effect Jananuary 1, 2015.”

Health Care Choices is available online, by calling the Senior LinkAge Line®: A One Stop Shop for Minnesota Seniors at 1-800-333-2433, or by visiting www.MinnesotaHelp.info and using the chat live feature or leaving an email after business hours. (Source: Minnesota Board on Aging)

 

 

Fired worker gets settlement

A Minneapolis-area home health care provider will pay $30,000 under a consent decree entered here which resolves a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced recently.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Baywood Home Care violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide Laurie Goodnough with a reasonable accommodation, and instead firing her as a home health aide. Goodnough has fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis that substantially limits her walking and bending.

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, of which Minnesota is a part, managed the agency’s administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit. Rowe said that the EEOC’s suit had alleged that two supervisors observed Goodnough walking with a cane, contacted Baywood Home Care’s owner and complained about it. The EEOC alleged that Baywood Home Care then fired Goodnough because of her disability and failed to engage in the interactive process to determine and provide her with a reasonable accommodation.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge Ann D. Montgomery on October 28, provides $30,000 in monetary relief to Goodnough. It also requires Baywood Home Care to train its management personnel and employees involved in hiring on the ADA, including reasonable accommodation, and the interactive process. The decree also requires Baywood Home Care to revise its performance evaluation criteria to hold managers and supervisors accountable for failing to report, take appropriate action or engage in the interactive process with respect to disability discrimination complaints or requests for accommodation. Finally, Baywood Home Care must report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC during the decree’s three-year term. (Source: EEOC)