Regional News in Review – October 2009

Crime victims, disabilities are studied People with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than […]

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Crime victims, disabilities are studied

People with disabilities are 1.5 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than nondisabled people, according to a U.S. Department of Justice Study. The study found that people 12 or older with disabilities in 2007 experienced about 716,000 nonfatal violent crimes, including rape or sexual assault, robbery and assault. They were also victims in 2.3 million property crimes, such as burglaries, motor-vehicle or other thefts.

The study is the first of its kind. It indicated that the violent crime rate was 32 per 1,000 for people with disabilities 12 or older. That’s compared to 21 per 1,000 for the nondisabled for the same age group.

Michael Rand, a co-author of the study who heads crime victim statistics at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, said it’s likely the disabled are victimized more because they are seen as easier targets. “It’s clear that overall, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to being a victim of violent crime than others,” he said.

But the study isn’t clear as to what extent people with disabilities were targeted because of their physical status. Nearly one in five of the violent-crime victims believed their disability was the motivating factor. In one-third of the cases, the victims perceived offenders to be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

One finding of the study is that young and middle-age people with disabilities were nearly twice as likely to be a victim as their nondisabled counterparts. Women with a disability were almost twice as likely to be a victim of a violent crime as their nondisabled counterparts. The rate was 35 per 1,000 people age 12 or older. Men with disabilities also experienced higher rates of violence. Sixteen percent of violent crimes against women with disabilities were committed by an intimate partner, such as a spouse or boyfriend, compared to 27 percent for women without disabilities. Five percent of violence against men with disabilities involved an intimate partner, compared to 3 percent for men without disabilities.

The full study is available at [Source: Associated Press]


Abercrombie’s must pay fine in autism case

A controversy involving an Apple Valley teenager with autism and the retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch has resulted in a hefty fine from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. But the store’s appeal of an $115,264 fine for discriminating against Molly Maxson was thrown out last month on a technicality. Abercrombie failed to send a document by certified mail.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced that it had penalized the clothing retailer after it didn’t let Maxson, an autistic teenager from Apple Valley, be accompanied by her sister in a fitting room at its Mall of America store in 2005. Store employees would not relent, even after Molly’s sister and mother explained that, because of her disability, the teen could not be alone. Maxson was 14 at the time. She said the store’s actions made her feel badly about herself.

State officials also ordered Abercrombie to train its employees to accommodate customers with disabilities and to put up signs in its seven Minnesota stores about how customers can seek exceptions to the company’s one-person-per-fitting-room policy. Abercrombie appealed the fine and corrective actions, but sent the petition for the appeal to the Department of Human Rights by first-class mail, rather than by certified mail or hand-delivery. First-class mail doesn’t comply with the procedures of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, so the court dismissed the appeal Sept. 15. Ian Laurie, an attorney for Maxson, said he had a communication from Abercrombie that indicated the company would no longer fight the penalties. “I think that the family is glad that this is finally over,” Laurie said. “Now we can kind of move on.”

Michael Browne, legal affairs manager for the state Department of Human Rights, said he’s expecting the company to move forward on the agency’s orders. “It’s time to put up those signs,” Browne said. [Source: Star Tribune]

Stolen trike found, returned

A St. Paul North End man, who is developmentally disabled, had his prized stolen trike returned after an extensive search. Ruag MacKay, 47, relies on the adult trike as his main means of transportation. It was stolen from his family’s backyard in late September. The red TriStar Adult trike was found a day later on the city’s East Side. No one has been arrested in connection with the theft. Police repaired the trike’s broken headlight before returning it to MacKay, who jumped onto the trike and rode it around his block after getting it back.

MacKay is a well-known figure in the North End, shoveling snow, cutting grass on vacant lots and helping to keep his neighborhood clean. He is often seen riding the trike, which has a white basket, bell and United States flag flying from it. He has been honored by the neighborhood for his volunteer work. His neighbors, Linda and John Jungwirth, led the effort to get the trike returned or replaced. Before the trike was found, offers of a replacement or funds to buy a replacement poured in. But his friends noted that MacKay, who is known as “Rugy,” really just wanted his old trike back. [Source: St. Paul Police Department, Access Press staff]

Federal grant to increase health care access

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has been awarded almost $35.3 million over five years to help uninsured Minnesotans receive health care through local access to care programs. The money will be used to make grants to community agencies for programs providing affordable coverage for preventive health care services to people who are not eligible for public programs and unable to afford private insurance. Minnesota was one of 13 states to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The first-year grant is $4.6 million and the state will need to re-apply for funding each year to access the full $35 million. An additional $30 million from non-federal sources will be contributed to the total project funding primarily from in-kind services from community agencies and DHS.

“Partnerships between state, local, and private entities are important in providing health care for the uninsured,” said Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman. “These grants will help community health organizations provide preventative care.”

Initially three community agencies will receive funding to expand local access to care programs, also known as multi-share models, with funding provided by a combination of community sources, employers and enrollees: Portico Healthnet, which serves low-income uninsured individuals and families in Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey and Washington counties; HealthShare of Duluth, which will expand its multi-share program to include people in St. Louis, Carlton, Cook, Lake, Itasca, Koochiching and Aitkin counties; and PrimeWest Health that will create a program to serve Beltrami, Big Stone, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, McLeod, Meeker, Pipestone, Pope, Renville, Stevens and Traverse counties.

Up to 10,000 uninsured Minnesotans are estimated to receive coverage through the programs, which are expected to be open to people with incomes ranging from about $37,900 for a single person to $77,175 for a family of four. DHS will provide tools and assistance to community agencies to enroll people who are eligible in the local access to care programs or state health care programs. DHS will also expand the multi-share models statewide through grants and create a supportive infrastructure for the programs. The programs will be evaluated by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota Division of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health. [Source: Minnesota Department of Health]

Cuts force property tax increase

Hennepin County’s 2010 budget faces reductions in service in a number of areas, as well as a 3 percent property tax increase needed in part to cover state cuts to state funding for health care. County Administrator Richard Johnson presented a $1.6 billion budget in September to the county board. The total budget is down about 6 percent from this year’s $1.71 billion.

But even after cutting 163 jobs and reducing capital improvements, the county still needs to raise property taxes by 3 percent solely to pay increased costs at Hennepin County Medical Center, Johnson said. Those higher costs were caused by the state’s cancellation of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) for poor adults, he said. Hearing that, county commissioners began their budget deliberations by blasting Gov. Pawlenty again for shifting the state’s budget problems to them. The county estimates that 40 percent of the state’s poor adults who were covered by the state program live in Hennepin County.

The tax increase is required “just because the governor cut the legs out” from under thousands of low-income adults who depended on assistance, Commissioner Gail Dorfman said.

Rather than raising state taxes, Pawlenty is “balancing the state budget on the backs of property taxpayers in counties and cities,” Commissioner Peter McLaughlin said.

“The General Assistance Medical Care cut is the biggest example for us,” he said. Pawlenty shifted those health care costs to the counties “at the same time he is opposed to national health care reform.”

Board Chair Mike Opat said residents may wonder “how can the property tax budget go up” in such economic times. But, Opat said, the county pays $43 million a year to provide health care for people who are poor and uninsured. The 3 percent tax increase proposed in the budget would bring in only $18 million toward that problem.

The board will adopt a budget in December after three months of public hearings. [Source: Star Tribune]

Grants available to artists with disabilities

Minnesota artists with disabilities can apply to receive a Career Advancement Grant of $1,250 from VSA arts of Minnesota. Seven grants will be awarded to individuals in any art discipline: visual, performing, written, media, etc. This year’s grants focus on rewarding upcoming artist projects. Funded for the 14th straight year by the Jerome Foundation, the program’s goals are to recognize excellence in arts produced by persons with disabilities; provide tangible encouragement and financial awards to artists with disabilities who wish to undertake creative projects to benefit their careers; and identify Minnesota artists with disabilities whose art is a serious pursuit guided by a personal, artistic vision. The program is open to any Minnesota resident (including 60 previous grant recipients) with a disability, using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) definition: a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of a substantially limiting impairment to a major life activity, or is regarded by others as having a substantially limiting impairment.

Persons whose artwork was prepared for educational credit are not eligible. For an application go to, call 612-332-3888 or 800-801-3883, voice/TTY, or email [email protected] Applications must be postmarked by Friday, Nov. 13. Please specify if you need a format other than print or e-mail (PC diskette, audiotape, Braille or large print).


Develop services for older Minnesotans

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has awarded $2.4 million in grants to community organizations throughout the state to help aging Minnesotans live independently and remain in their own homes as long as possible. The grants provide seed money to develop services that improve chronic disease management, link formal and informal long-term care services and promote independence for seniors.

Examples of services funded include: caregiver support and education, home delivery of services, telehealth support, mobile health service programs, home modifications and repair, transportation, care coordination, homemaker services and health education. “We are very pleased to be able to award these grants to these innovative organizations,” said Loren Colman, DHS assistant commissioner for Continuing Care. “Our grantees this year have embraced change while also focusing on the needs of older adults across Minnesota. These grants recognize their forward thinking and desire to help others.”

Funding is from the Community Service and Community Services Development grant program, which has funded 300 projects throughout Minnesota since 2001. More than 150,000 Minnesotans age 65 and over have benefited from improvements made as the result of the grants.

Twenty organizations throughout the state were selected to receive grants in the counties where services will be provided. [Source: Minnesota Department of Health]


Finding a job can be difficult

More than 13 million Americans between ages 16 and 64 say they have a medical condition that makes it difficult to find a job or remain employed, which is nearly 13 percent higher than two years ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Many more individuals have some level of disability, and October provides an opportunity to highlight their contributions and needs during National Disability Awareness Month. Organizations, including Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare services, are helping to draw attention to this month’s observance.

Disabilities can result from chronic illness, injury or a combination of conditions affecting individuals. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said more adults-one in five-report that they have a disability. The CDC estimates 47.5 million people in the United States have a disability. The incidence of disability increases as people age. A CDC study found that 11 percent of those ages 18 to 44 have a disability. The amount increased to 23.9 percent for ages 45-65, and 51.8 percent for ages 65 and older.

The five most common causes of disability among U.S. adults are arthritis or rheumatism, back or spinal problems, heart trouble, mental or emotional problems, and lung or respiratory problems, according to the CDC. Rounding out the top 10 causes are diabetes, deafness or hearing problems, stiffness or deformity of limbs/extremities, blindness or vision problems, and stroke. The number of adults with a disability is likely to increase as the larger population of baby boomers grows older, said CDC officials. Other conditions that cause disability in adults include cancer, autoimmune diseases and immune disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, neurological and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The U.S. Census Bureau also reports that nearly 11 million Americans, age 6 and older, need personal assistance with everyday activities.

During October, communities, organizations and people from all walks of life will make a point to recognize the value of every individual and their opportunity to get the most out of their life, no matter the severity or type of disability. [Source: Allsup]

  • Work with your care provider to stay healthy. Protect yourself. Vaccines are your best protection against being sick.
  • Wash your hands! Hands that look can still have icky germs!

You are not alone. Minnesota Autism Resource Portal.