Regional News -- October 2021

Regional News -- October 2021

New mobile app gives fast immunization info

Minnesotans can now easily access their immunization record through their smartphones or other mobile devices by using an app called Docket. Docket enables residents with a Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC) record to securely view and share their immunization records.

MIIC, Minnesota’s immunization information system, combines all immunizations a person has received into a single record, even if they were given by different health care providers in Minnesota. Starting today, anyone who has a MIIC record can use the Docket app to access their record, including their COVID-19 vaccination. The app provides a PDF document of the immunization record that can be saved to your mobile device, printed, emailed, or texted as needed.

“We recognize the importance of having a secure and convenient way to find, view, and share your and your family’s immunization records, such as needing records for school or child care,” said Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann. “The Docket app gives Minnesotans a digital option to access their immunization history in MIIC, check what vaccines you or your children may be due for, and see what vaccines you may need in the future. This is vital to making sure people are protected from preventable diseases.”

Docket helps meet consumer demand for more accessible immunization records. Minnesota is seeing dramatically increased demand from people for easier access to their own vaccination information. So far in 2021, MDH has received over 33,000 requests for immunization records through our online form—more than 19,000 of those requests came since July 1. For comparison, MDH received approximately 12,000 requests in 2020 and 13,000 requests in 2019.

“The volume of recent requests means it is taking weeks, not days, for people to get their vaccination record back, but Docket gives an option for people to more directly and quickly access their immunization information,” said Ehresmann.

Anyone who wants or needs access to their immunization record and does not have a smartphone or does not want to use the app can still request their immunization record from MDH or their health care provider. For more information, visit Find My Immunization Record.

Docket is free and available for download in Apple and Android app stores.

(Source: Minnesota Department of Health)

Kandi Works DAC is no more

The dissolution of Kandi Works Development Achievement Center, a nonprofit that provided services to disabled clients, is nearing completion. One of the last steps, transferring its remaining assets to Kandiyohi County, was completed in September by the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners.

The resolution accepting the assets, worth $587,054, was approved unanimously by the County Board.

Kandi Works DAC was established in 1990 and for 30 years provided day programming and work opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. Financial concerns became an issue in the last several years, only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic which caused Kandi Works, and other DACs across the state, to close down for several months.

“The DAC has been challenged with a number of things financially over the years. Number one was transportation,” said Health and Human Services Supervisor Kathy Nelson.

The assets won’t go into the county’s general fund. County Administrator Larry Kleindl recommended forming a committee whose mission will be figuring out how to distribute the funds to other organizations who serve the same community Kandi Works did.

“The last thing we want to do is swallow them (the assets) up and not recognize the intent of those funds,” Kleindl said.

The Kandi Works board of directors made the hard decision to dissolve the nonprofit on July 28, 2020, with the County Board approving it a few months later.

“There was a lot of feelings over that, but it was a necessity they felt,” Nelson said. “So they dissolved.”

Nelson said many of the Kandi Works clients have found services elsewhere, but there are some who have yet to find an organization to replace what Kandi Works had offered them at sites in Kandiyohi and Atwater.

“I think they served them (the clients) great,” Nelson said of Kandi Works. “There is a gap now for our community for serving those individuals with day programming.”

The hope is another provider will step up, something the County Board has said it supports.

(Source: West Central Tribune)

Student debt erasure eyed

The Biden administration announced it will automatically erase student loan debt for more than 300,000 Americans with severe disabilities that leave them unable to earn significant incomes.

The move will wipe out more than $5.8 billion in debt, according to the Education Department, and it marks the start of a broader overhaul of a program that has been criticized for having overly burdensome rules.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we are excited to follow through on it,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

The federal government offers student debt relief for people who are “totally and permanently disabled” and have limited incomes. But the current rules require them to submit documentation of their disability and undergo a three-year monitoring period to prove they’re earning little pay.

Tens of thousands of people have been dropped from the program and had their loans reinstated simply because they failed to submit proof of their earnings, however, and critics say the complex rules deter some from applying.

Advocates have pressed the Education Department to eliminate the monitoring period entirely and to provide automatic debt relief to people whom the Social Security Administration already identifies as permanently disabled.

Under the new action, both demands will be met. Starting in September, the Education Department will start erasing student debt for 323,000 Americans identified in Social Security records as being permanently disabled.

(Source: Associated Press)

Drowning prompts calls for change

Following a search spanning more than 18 hours, authorities in September recovered the body of a 2 ½-year-old girl with autism who went missing from an Edina park. A large group of public safety personnel from Edina and neighboring suburbs were looking in and around Rosland Park in hopes of finding Iklas Abdullahi Ahmed alive.

Searchers recovered the girl’s body in a pond near the park’s aquatic center, said Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson, who was at the scene.

“On behalf of the city, I want to send our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the family and the loved ones of this young girl,” Edina Police Chief Todd Milburn said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Our hearts go out to all those affected by this devastating tragedy.”

Milburn said Iklas was nonverbal because of her autism.

“Our concern last night was that she may have been attracted to [areas] of water,” Milburn said during a news conference in the park’s parking lot off.

Milburn said the father came to the park with Iklas and other children in the family. The father said that Iklas wandered away while he was taking one of the other children to the bathroom. The father and others at the park searched on their own for a time and then notified authorities soon afterward, the chief said.

(Source: Star Tribune)

Care center worker sues facility

A former employee is suing a North Mankato senior care facility for discrimination, claiming she was fired for needing to work from home during the pandemic.

St. Peter resident Julianne Strong of St. Peter, said she has a heart condition and successfully did her job from home before she was terminated from Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows.

She has filed suit against the facility and its owner, Vista Prairie Communities. The lawsuit claims discrimination because of her health issue and her age, failure to provide a disability accommodation, and retaliation.

Strong worked as the community support manager at Monarch Meadows from April 2019 until April 2020. She reportedly has a heart condition that put her at greater risk if she caught COVID-19. She says she worked from home for two weeks as the pandemic struck and did not receive any negative feedback on her performance. Strong then was asked to return to work in person. When she provided doctor’s notes, she was placed on paid sick leave. After two weeks, she received notice her position had been eliminated.

“Vista Prairie did not attempt to accommodate Strong or find an accommodation through an interactive process. It simply terminated her position,” the lawsuit states.

The day after she was let go, the company reportedly advertised a new position opening. The position was retitled sales and community marketing manager. “But the job requirements remained the same,” the lawsuit claims. A person who is decades younger than Strong reportedly was hired for the new position.

A statement provided by Jeff Smith, Vista Prairie Communities vice president of external relations, confirms Strong was let go but refutes any wrongdoing:

(Source: Free Press of Mankato)