Regional News in Review - October 2016

Hansmeier is suspended from law

The Minnesota Supreme Court has indefinitely suspended a Minneapolis lawyer who is accused of suing businesses over accessibility issues. The main violation before the high court centered on Paul Robert Hansmeier’s practice of suing people for downloading pornography on the Internet.

Since 2015 the Minnesota Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility asked the court last year to disbar or suspend Hansmeier. He dropped his opposition to the disciplinary proceedings.

Hansmeier also filed a number of so-called nuisance lawsuits against small businesses, for not complying with disability access laws. Both types of filings were criticized as a way for Hansmeier to profit off of others as many people would pay thousands of dollars to have the cases settled.

Hansmeier was also accused of “discovery abuse” or filing a lawsuit for the sole purpose of seeking the identity of others who could be sued; willfully violating court orders and sanctions and lying to the courts about his finances and associations with other law firms.

He has not indicated if he will seek to be reinstated as a lawyer. Hansmeier told the Pioneer Press he would continue to work for the rights of the disabled. (Source: KSTP-TV, Pioneer Press)

 

Girl rides bus without aides

A seven-year old girl with developmental disabilities and seizures rode a school bus alone for months. This is despite her Individual Education Program (IEP) stating that she would be monitored and provided emergency medication as needed.

An IEP is a legally binding document used to guide the education and oversight of students with special needs. Student Emily Quandt, who attends Lake Elmo Elementary, has had an IEP in place for almost two years. It states that she “requires a trained person to ride the bus to and from school with her each day due to the risk of a life threatening seizure and the need for immediate administration of emergency medication.”

Family members said the Stillwater School District didn’t live up to its end of the agreement. A district spokesperson told KSTP-TV, “When services are added to a child’s IEP, we immediately take steps to staff that position. Until we are able to fill the position, we work collaboratively with our families to put interim plans in place to provide the services needed by the child.” Emails between the Quandts and school district showed that the services weren’t provided as the district tried to hire someone as a bus monitor. The Quandts contacted the Minnesota Disability Law Center.

The Stillwater School District has dealt with concerns that IEPs have been changed after parents signed them. Tight budgets and staffing issues have caused problems with IEP compliance in other districts. (Source: KSTP-TV)

 

Mental health issues studied

More than half of all inmates in the Hennepin County jail suffer from a mental illness of some kind—far more than thought—and they are more likely to reoffend than other inmates. “What we’re seeing is crisis levels of mental illness among our inmates,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “This is solid evidence that our jails continue to serve as the largest mental health facilities in the state.”

Hennepin County will soon launch a program designed to better identify inmates with mental health problems and divert many to court-supervised treatment programs. For the first time, doctoral-level psychologists will work at the jail to evaluate inmates and identify community treatment alternatives. The program is expected to result in the early release of at least 100 mentally ill inmates in the first year; only those accused of lower-level offenses.

Jail officials are collaborating more closely with Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). Starting next month, every inmate booked downtown will be screened for a mental illness by a registered nurse from HCMC. Screenings was done before by deputies. Inmates who require prescription medications will receive a 24 hours’ supply upon release, with HCMC nurses overseeing the service, Stanek said.

A recent one-day survey found that 11 percent of the jail population receive antipsychotic medications. “It speaks to the level of acuity of these individuals and how much they’ve suffered,” said HCMC psychiatrist Dr. Ian Heath. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

Nursing home blamed for death

A Cannon Falls nursing home is being blamed by state regulators in the case of a resident who died after choking on a sandwich in November 2015. The resident was not to eat solid foods. The Minnesota Department of Health, in findings released in September, said the Gardens at Cannon Falls “did not have an adequate system to ensure cognitively impaired residents on [liquid] diets were adequately supervised.”

Nursing home staff knew the resident was dissatisfied with her limited diet. The resident was 77-year-old Margarita M. Schuler, a longtime librarian with St. Paul Public Library. Family members said they had been frustrated with her care. The nursing home was ordered to correct deficiencies in care and has the right to appeal the state’s findings. Officials have declined comment.

Schuler was able to grab and try to eat a sandwich when staff members weren’t looking, according to the state report. Staff tried to dislodge the food after she choked, but she died of cardiac and respiratory arrest en route to the hospital. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

Goodwill-Easter Seals ends programs

A lack of resources has forced Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota to phase out its clinical mental health services, medical equipment lending and call center training programs. CEO Michael Wirth-Davis said the nonprofit doesn’t have enough resources to provide the services.

Wirth-Davis also said Goodwill-Easter Seals would work with clients until their programs end or they find alternative providers. No estimate of job losses was available, but some workers indicated they would be laid off before year’s end.

The closings will allow the nonprofit to focus more on workforce development.

Goodwill-Easter Seals has long offered a wide range of mental health outpatient services. Call center training has helped prepare clients for jobs in that field. The medical equipment loan program, which provides a wide range of free items for up to two months, has been offered at St. Paul, Rochester, and St. Cloud and Willmar locations.

Goodwill-Easter Seals had almost 3,000 employees and more than 1,600 volunteers as of 2013. Wirth- Davis said the nonprofit is doing fine financially and that its stores will not change. Goodwill-Easter Seals has 49 stores in Minnesota and has opened several new stores in recent years. (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)

 

Regional councils form to improve services

In July the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), with advice from the State Quality Assurance Council, issued three grants totaling $507,114. The grants are to form regional quality councils to improve the quality of services provided to people with disabilities.

Regional quality councils are being formed in Hennepin, Scott and Dakota counties; St. Louis, Carlton, Lake and Cook counties; and Olmsted, Houston and Wabasha counties. The regional quality councils will develop and implement a quality monitoring system that includes person-centered quality reviews to measure and report on services for people with disabilities in their regions, analyze information and coordinate a regional response to access barriers and service gaps, set priorities to improve home- and community-based long-term service and supports for people with disabilities based on regional strengths and needs.

Regional findings will be reported to the state council, which will share the information with DHS and make recommendations for system improvements. Contact Dan Zimmer, director, State Quality Assurance Council, for more information at 507-271-8606.  (Source: Minnesota DHS)