The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE) are contemplating a labor strike starting around September 17th. Among others, AFSCME represents state employees who provide direct care assistance and other support services to persons with developmental disabilities who are being served by State Operated Services. Among others, MAPE represents employees of the Department of Human Services who supervise State Operated Service sites.
These State Operated Services are a division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. State Operated Services include four-person homes and various sized day training and habilitation programs. According to the Department of Human Services, about 325 persons with developmental disabilities reside in its residential sites, and about 550 persons are enrolled in its day training and habilitation sites. These programs are located throughout the state.
With a potential strike looming, the question arises about who will provide the direct care services to these individuals during a strike. Arc Minnesota has been told that the Department is in the process of making contingency plans to continue services during a strike.
On August 20th, the Governor issued an executive order requiring the Department of Human Services to submit a strike response plan to ensure that essential care and services are provided to people receiving services from the State Operated Services division.
The order requires the Department to immediately implement appropriate training programs for personnel temporarily assigned to these sites. The Governor’s order also requires the National Guard to be activated on or after September 6th for the purpose of receiving necessary advance training required by the strike contingency plans.
People who have loved ones receiving services in these settings are encouraged to ask questions soon about who will provide services during the strike, their knowledge of your loved one, the staff-to-client ratio, and whether all current services will be available. If you are uncomfortable with any of these answers, there are some options available.
First, talk to your county case manager about what alternative services may be provided. These may include being served temporarily by another provider or by a family member. These options may require that your loved one be screened out of the State Operated Service and screened into another service. At the end of the strike they would be re-screened back into the State Operated Services.
If the expectation is that the family will provide the services, ask that in-home supports be provided. In-home supports can take many forms but usually include having a paid staff person come into the home to provide necessary services.
Be aware that parents of adults with developmental disabilities and other family members can be paid to provide Personal Care Assistance services if a hardship is created. Hardships include such things as lost income due to a reduction of employment or a layoff.
Hopefully, a strike won’t happen. If it does, feel free to contact Arc chapters for further advice. At this time, be aware of the possibility, and begin investigating the potential impact on your loved one and family.
Information for this article was provided by Arc Minnesota.