Disability advocates see problems in new budget deal

Looking through the recently passed state budget — which had been assembled quickly behind closed doors before Tuesday’s late-night/early morning passage — advocates for people with disabilities seem worried.

“There are so many cuts to people with disabilities in the health and human services bill that you don’t know which bad news to deliver first,” Steve Larson, The Arc Minnesota public policy director said in a statement. “People with disabilities get hit from all sides. If they are waiting for essential services, that wait will likely continue. If they are receiving services, they will see a funding cut. If their family member is paid to provide support to them, that family member will get his/her wages cut. If a resident of the adult foster home leaves that residence, it may create turmoil for the remaining residents.”

Pat Mellenthin, chief executive officer for The Arc Minnesota, called it a “bad news budget for people with disabilities.”

  “The budget that was just approved cuts services that make life possible for people with disabilities and their families, makes reforms in some areas but goes backwards in others, and puts much of the cost on the state credit card,” Mellenthin said.

Some of the concerns they found in the Health and Human Services bill, which was passes at 1 a.m. Wednesday and signed eight hours later by Gov. Mark Dayton:

  • Cuts wages by 20 percent for personal care attendants (PCAs) who provide services to relatives.
  • Limits enrollment to services that help people with disabilities live in the community, technically called “waivered services.”
  • Cuts payment rates for a variety of services funded by state Medical Assistance dollars that help people with disabilities live in the community and keep families together.
  • Cuts services for people with disabilities judged to be “low need.”
  • Restricts foster care homes in ways that would harm residents with disabilities. These restrictions would permanently decrease the number of people allowed to live in a home if one of the residents leaves.
  • Cuts county funding that helps pay for a variety of services for people with disabilities.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Galen Smith on 07/21/2011 - 07:19 pm.

    It would be great to interview some people who have disabilities in addition to our allies. There are lots more concerns in the budget as well including:

    – No “specialized maintenance” physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
    – People with disabilities receiving General Assistance and Minnesota Supplemental Aid will see restrictions to which ATMs they can withdraw their cash benefits from and what they can spend their money on.

    There is also some good news for the disability community. Advocating Change Together (ACT), an organization run by people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, received funding for 2012 in the Jobs Bill. The funding they received will go a long way toward building the self-advocacy movement in Minnesota and across the world!

  2. Submitted by Debra Hogenson on 07/22/2011 - 01:09 pm.

    I work as a case manager for persons with intellectual and related disabilities. It is my job to help people create plans that will allow them to live as independently as possible, directing their lives as much as feasible, and achieve their dreams as far as possible. The budget bill made this much more difficult, especially since it is one more layer of cuts on top of a decade of cuts. Out of all the bad things in the bill, one stands out as an assault on the personal freedom of people with disabilities: Permanently removing the number of licensed beds in an adult foster home after someone moves out.

    Doing this means that counties, to protect the safety and security of the remaining residents, will resist helping someone move, who is unhappy with where they are living. People will be imprisoned by their funding stream.

    If you want to truly understand this, imagine explaining to someone who wants to move – “Sorry, you can’t, the home here needs the money your living here brings in. If you move they won’t have enough money to take care the other people who live here, and then everyone will lose their home. So, sorry, I know you don’t like it here and you want to do something else with your life, but that just isn’t as important as managing the money your home gets paid because you live here – where you don’t want to live.”

    Someday soon I will have one of these discussions.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/23/2011 - 12:33 am.

    England’s Prime Minister David Cameron is out-cutting the big cutters we see here (so far, anyway), including truly damaging cuts — for the English people — to the National Health Service,services for the elderly and/or disabled, and every part of the social safety net.

    A number of charities that provide services to those with disabilities are suing the Cameron government because the cuts it is making are so deep that these agencies will not be able to remain in compliance with the laws that were written to assure adherence to the UN’s declaration on the rights of the disabled.

    It sounds as though the same could well be true for providers in Minnesota, who must be in compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act. The law was also created to codify in law the terms of the UN declaration.

    I wrote to Mr. Larson about this, but have heard nothing back. Does that mean that our providers will NOT be in violation of the ADA because of the right-wing cuts or that bringing a suit would be a waste of time?

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