Milestones have been reached on issues affecting Minnesotans with disabilities. These issues, all of which Access Press has been following over the past several months, center on mental health, waiver services and employment.
One huge step is that Minnesotans who have faced long waits for waiver services may finally be seeing some relief. In November state officials announced that a lengthy and longstanding waiting list for waiver service has been eliminated.
The list has included about 1,420 Minnesotans with disabilities. Some people waited years for help. The list was eliminated in October.
Waivers are a form of Medicaid assistance. The Community Access of Disability Inclusion (CADI) waivers help people cover the costs of caregiving, transportation and other services when they live independently in the community. Elimination of the CADI list was hailed by disability advocates as a positive step towardhelping integrate people into the community, which is a key goal of the state’s Olmstead Plan.
In 2015 families frustrated with the long waits for CADI waivers filed a lawsuit claiming that the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) mismanaged more than $1 billion in Medicaid waiver funds over 20 years. Families contended that many counties weren’t spending money allocated for waiver services. The lawsuit is still pending in federal court. Last year DHS began to take Medicaid dollars from counties with surpluses, and give the funds to counties with long waiting lists.
Mental health recommendations made
Another November milestone was that the Governor’s Task Force on Mental Health delivered recommendations to Gov. Mark Dayton for creating a statewide mental health system that meets the needs of all Minnesotans.
More than 200,000 adults and 75,000 children in Minnesota live with mental illness. Gaps in Update on major issues – from p. 1 Minnesota’s mental health system can lead to inappropriate and expensive care, such as hospitalization or ending up in a jail cell instead of a home visit from a mobile crisis team.
The task force took a comprehensive look at the state’s mental health system and made nine recommendations. It recognized that many people with mental illness also have a substance use disorders, and emphasized the need for a continuum of mental health services and activities, including health promotion and prevention, early intervention services, basic clinical services, residential and inpatient treatment, community supports and crisis response services. Recommended are improvements to the governance of mental health services to achieve that continuum.
The task force also recognized disparities for some groups and recommended strategies to reduce those disparities. Other recommendations related to workforce and housing shortages, parity, acute care capacity and crisis response services.
The full report can be found online here.
Opportunity Partners case settled
Opportunity Partners has agreed to a settlement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The result is that its workers can seek regular jobs at competitive wage.
The disability services provider has long considered about 2,000 workers with disabilities to be clients, consumers or persons served. Many are paid less than minimum wage and receive job supportive services.
Workers at Opportunity Painters and other firms often do packaging work or light assembly on contact, under special certificates issues by the U.S. Department of Labor. The certificates allow people to be paid based on productivity, rather than with an hourly wage. It’s estimated that about 15,400 Minnesotans with disabilities work for the agencies holding the certificates
The practice is controversial, with some saying it is discriminatory and others saying it provides employment and supports for people who otherwise would not be able to work at all.
The settlement means that the people served or clients can now try for regular employment, and earn more. It stems from a human rights complaint filed in 2015 by Bradford Teslow, 59, of St. Paul, who works at a Bloomington Opportunity Partners facility.
Teslow had applied to be a site supervisor but was told he wouldn’t be considered, because he’s not a regular employee. He alleged discrimination and filed the complaint. The settlement means he and others can now apply for such jobs.
In the settlement, the Minnetonka-based nonprofit doesn’t admit to any wrongdoing.