Regional News in Review - October 2013

Coach’s epilepsy a chance for education

The University of Minnesota athletic director has voiced strong support for head football coach Jerry Kill, in the wake of a critical newspaper column suggesting Kill is unfit to coach because of his epilepsy.

Kill had a seizure on the sidelines at TCF Bank Stadium, September 14 during halftime of the Gophers’ home game against Western Illinois University. It was the third seizure he’s had at a game during his coaching tenure at Minnesota. A Star Tribune columnist called for Kill to step aside. But university officials and advocacy groups disagree.

“I support him 100 percent,” said U of M Athletic Director Norwood Teague. “He’s an epileptic. He has seizures. We deal with it and we move on.” Teague conceded people who don’t understand epilepsy can become uncomfortable around a person experiencing a major seizure. But he said it’s a health issue that can be managed and that it doesn’t affect coaching and recruiting.

The Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation objected to the Star Tribune column, especially a paragraph that suggested football fans shouldn’t be subjected to witnessing a seizure. The newspaper’s executive editor apologized for the column.

Brett Boyum, president of the Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation Board, told KARE 11 News, “The verbiage and the judgments that Mr. (Jim) Souhan made in the article hearken back to 50, 60 or 70 years ago when there was a lot less known about epilepsy.”

“There are plenty of people today in the sports, entertainment and business world who have epilepsy and are very successful,” said Boyum. “If you’re anyone with any sort of disability you work hard to prove yourself. You feel you have to go that extra step to prove yourself. And I think Coach Kill has done more than that.” (Source: KARE 11 News)

 

 

$70,000 settlement is paid to nurse

A nurse who worked for Health East and Health Inventures in Maplewood until she was fired in 2009 will receive $70,000 in settlement of a charge of disability and age discrimination filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. State officials found probable cause to believe that Health Inventures discriminated against Bernice Schwab by failing to accommodate a disability she developed after she fell and injured her shoulder. The state also found that disability and age were factors in the decision to terminate her employment following a medical leave, in September 2009.

Schwab was 73 when she filed her charge. During her total tenure of 37 years, she had received good performance reviews, had received no formal performance warnings, and had rarely missed a day of work.  But Health Inventures refused to allow Schwab to return to work, even though it knew her doctor had cleared her to do so. Although Schwab repeatedly tried to communicate with her employer about returning to work, Health Inventures was uncooperative in replying.

In addition to paying $70,000 to Schwab, Health Inventures has agreed to provide training to its managers regarding the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The settlement does not constitute and admission of wrongdoing and Health Inventures denies that it discriminated against Schwab.  (Source: Minnesota Department of Human Rights)

 

 

Tricycle recovered, returned to owner

Two anonymous tips led police September 17 to an $1,800 adult tricycle stolen from a West St. Paul man the previous weekend. The tricycle had been stolen from a bus stop where it was chained. It turned up on St. Paul’s West Side.

The tricycle’s owner, 22-year-old Elliott Albright, has autism and needs the tricycle to get around. He had purchased the Workman PAV3 tricycle online in 2010 after receiving a grant from Dakota County Social Services. The theft received widespread media attention, which generated many tips to police.

Police do have a suspect but have made no arrest.  Albright’s and his family were pleased that the tricycle sustained minimal damage. (Source: Pioneer Press)

 

 

Health care company troubles outlined

Richfield-based Crystal Care Home Health Services is being taken over by a North St. Paul company this fall. But that may be too late for some employees who claim they haven’t been paid since early July.

Employees said some paychecks bounced in March. The company told workers it was preparing a new pay schedule, and then checks stopped coming. Some employees are owed for hundreds of hours and feared losing their homes. Crystal Care is currently under investigation by the state.

HealthStar Home Health of North St. Paul recently notified employees it is taking over the Crystal Care clients and wants to transfer the employees. Letters to Crystal Care employees also indicate that Healthstar will work with an attorney to collect the funds due Crystal Care in an expedited manner. The funds will be used to pay for wages until the employees are fully transitioned to HealthStar.

But clients are still trying to get information, according to the Fairmont Sentinel. Clients have had to deal with constant changes in service. Clients have had to cope with changes in personal care assistants, as workers who cannot get paid have quit. One woman reported she went without help for three weeks. (Source: Fairmont Sentinel)

 

 

Changes sought after child’s death

With the death in August of an 11-year-old Minnesota boy, there are now at least 14 children with autism known to have died in the U.S. this year after slipping away from their caregivers. The phenomenon of children with autism leaving their caregivers goes by a number of different names but no matter what it is called, it is a life-threatening issue. About half of the children with autism are believed to be prone to doing so.

The body of the latest victim, 11-year-old Anthony Kuznia, was found in the Red River near his home in East Grand Forks in August. Family members had searched for him after he disappeared. A number of autism advocacy groups say wandering has led to the deaths of more than 60 children in the past four years. They are working to raise awareness and find more effective preventive measures.

All but one of this year’s victims drowned, which may be evidence of a fascination that many autistic children have with water.  (Source: KARE 11 News)