Fear of losing health insurance can be a major barrier for people with disabilities who want to work. Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities (MA-EPD) is a work incentive to help people with disabilities work and still retain or gain access to the health care services they need, for a monthly premium they can afford. To be eligible, people must be earning more than $65 per month. Premiums are based on household size and gross monthly income. MA-EPD allows people to retain a higher level of income and assets than standard Medical Assistance. Higher income and more assets help people to live more independently. People who are receiving SSI or SSI 1619(b) are already on Medical Assistance and do not need MA-EPD.
MA-EPD has been a popular benefit in Minnesota since 1999. Over 7,000 Minnesotans a year use MA-EPD, but until legislative changes in 2012, it was not available to people over 65. CCD led the charge to change policy with stories of working Minnesotans with disabilities who had to stop working at age 65 due to no longer being eligible for MA-EPD and face poverty to preserve their health care benefits. Personal stories helped citizens and legislators understand the impact of this challenge to employed individuals with disabilities as they age.
The story of Charles Van Heuvein was picked up by the media and galvanized the public to advocate for legislative changes. Van Heuvein had worked for the St. Paul School District for 18 years. MA-EPD enabled him to keep more of his income and to live more independently. When he reached the age of 65 and was no longer eligible for MA-EPD, he faced a daunting choice. If he was forced into retirement to preserve health care coverage, he could lose the modest assets he had acquired to live more independently including his ability to afford his adapted condo. He might end up in a nursing home. If he continued working, his current income could make him ineligible for standard Medical Assistance and the health care services he needed. Van Heuvein’s situation and similar stories from other Minnesotans gave a human face to what legislative changes were needed. MA-EPD is now available to Minnesotans with disabilities beyond the age of 65.
Don’t let fears about losing heath care coverage prevent you from working. Find out more about your personal situation and how MA-EPD could benefit you. To learn more about MA-EPD, call the Work Incentives Connection at 1-800-976-6728, or go to www.disabilityhubmn.org .
Carol Rydell, Kaposia for the MNCCD Employment Work Group with assistance from the Minnesota Work Incentives Connection website and Anni Simons, Government Relations Specialist at Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.
Do you struggle with heartburn, constipation, bloating or diarrhea? Or perhaps you’re always tired, crave carbohydrates or battle brain fog? Or are you one of the millions living with the pain of arthritis or battling chronic sinus infections?
What all these health conditions have in common may surprise you – an unhealthy digestive system. An unhealthy gut is much more prevalent than you’d think – about 60 to 70 million people in America have less than optimal digestive health.1 As a registered dietitian, I’ve studied this topic, worked with many individuals to restore their gut health, and fully understand that a healthy digestive system is the key to keeping your entire body operating at its best.
How great does optimal health sound? You can find heartburn relief, have regular bowel movements, enjoy great energy and ditch your carb cravings for good! How? The first step to optimal health is looking at the lifestyle habits such as those listed here, and other factors that may be contributing to your intestinal problems.
Stop by my session at the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Health and Wellness Conference to hear practical ways to heal your digestive system and get you on the road to your healthiest self!
We get a lot of messages, both overt and covert, telling us that “self care” is only for able-bodied, emotionally healthy (but a little stressed) folks with money - who else can get bi-monthly massages and afford designer bath bombs?! What we’re seeing in these advertisements is actually the commodification of self care. Wherever advertisers can find a way to make money, they will do that. And by reaching out to people who want feel the way that these images look, it’s enticing.
The truth is that this isn’t authentic self care. For some, absolutely this is reasonable for them and helps them, but it isn’t the full story. For most of the population, self care looks quite different than getting a backrub and taking a bath. Self care has become a buzz term synonymous with “treat yo’ self” as a way to sell luxury goods. But for most people, self care looks more like “boring self care.” Did I feed my body energizing foods to the best of my ability today? Did I get as much sleep as my body needs to the best of my ability? Did I move my body mindfully in some way today to the best of my ability? Did I engage in a meaningful way with another person or activity that I enjoy to the best of my ability? What this looks like will differ from person to person and it must because we are all very different.
Inevitably the next question that someone will ask me when I bring up this topic is, “but isn’t taking care of myself selfish?” And while I tend not to answer questions in absolutes, I feel confident in saying - No. The word selfish denotes a lack of consideration for others. And nowhere in the questions that I posed above were we caring for ourselves to the exclusion of others. In reality, what self care asks us to do, is to show ourselves the same compassion that we already show other living beings. If you have a pet, consider for a moment all of your pet’s needs: food, water, walks (or cleaning litter boxes, cages, etc), pats and snuggles, plenty of sleep. And now ask yourself, do you provide all of that for your pet? And do you not deserve the same level of care? I believe that you do. What if you considered taking care of yourself as well as you care for your pet?
If you don’t have a pet, or if that example simply doesn’t resonate with you, allow me to bring up one more aspect of self care. The self is political. When we make the time and space to care for ourselves - in a society that does everything it can to keep us from doing so - we are engaging in an act of political resistance. In the immortal words of Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Justine Mastin, MA, LMFT, LADC, E-RYT 200
Owner: Blue Box Counseling LLC, YogaQuest LLC
Last night I taught a lovely workshop on Healthy Relationships to a group of adults with disabilities. While brainstorming a list of Healthy and Unhealthy Behaviors in relationships, one young man yelled out “Sex is an unhealthy behavior!” The room got quiet and then a couple other adults said, “Yes, yes, sex is an unhealthy behavior.” I couldn’t believe it – but I knew this to be a common feeling among folks with disabilities. Many people with disabilities, and actually many people without disabilities, were taught growing up that “sex is bad”. At that moment, our conversation shifted to talk about that statement. We chatted about the word “pleasure” for a while – a new word for most participants. We talked about the importance of consenting to have sex in relationships. We also talked about the fact that sex is an adult activity, and they are adults. Hmm….I think the parents and staff in the room were holding their breath for these few minutes.
People with disabilities are sexually assaulted way more
often than people without disabilities. Let’s talk about these topics so that everyone knows what healthy and unhealthy behaviors are in a relationship. While presenting at the MN State Autism Conference last spring, a young woman with autism shared with me, “Thank you for teaching us this stuff. No one wants to talk to us about this it.”
Find out more about our work to support you in talking
about “this stuff” by visiting our webpage: www.sexualityforallabilities.com or contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find resources to support self-advocates, support professionals and parents & caregivers.
Katie Thune will present at the MNCCD Health and Wellness Conference on October 3rd. www.mnccd.org/conference
Strengthening families and communities is the theme for National Recovery Month
Minnesotans asked to “Join the Voices for Recovery”
In order to mark National Recovery Month, Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed September 2017 Recovery Month in the state of Minnesota.
Recovery Month gives focus to the fact that, as the Governor’s proclamation says, “Every day, Minnesotans across the state recover from substance use disorder and mental illness and join the thousands of vital, active, and contributing members of our communities who live in long-term recovery.”
Now in its 28th year, this year’s theme for National Recovery Month is, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities.” The theme encourages everyone to support recovery for those with mental and/or substance use disorders and, when needed, to seek help ourselves.
“Recovery Month reminds us that people in recovery are our family, our neighbors, and, sometimes, us,” said DHS Commissioner Emily Piper. “We need to leave judgment and stigma behind and support each other, including people who are in recovery from mental illness and addiction.”
Mental health and/or substance use disorders affect people of all ethnicities, ages, genders, geographic regions and socioeconomic levels. Individuals need to know that help is available, and that people can and do get better. For people who are seeking treatment, free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day through a national help line, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).
In Minnesota, there were over 50,000 admittances to chemical dependency treatment in 2016. Most people who enter chemical dependency treatment usually complete it and show considerable improvement, and abstinence from substance use and other benefits of treatment tend to continue over the long term. Despite this fact, more than 9 out of 10 adults with a substance use disorder did not receive treatment in the past year. As a result, the 2018-19 state budget includes investments in quicker access to treatment and in a wider range of services outside of treatment programs.
Nationally, one in five adults have some mental illness. Treatment for people with mental illness is highly effective, with between 70 and 90 percent of individuals having a significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life. Yet, too many people are not getting the care they need. Meanwhile, over 100,000 children and youth in Minnesota need treatment for serious emotional disturbances. As a result, Minnesota is offering new and innovative services on the county level and investing in more in children’s mental health services.
“They key is to not wait to get help,” said Piper. “With the support of friends, families and the community, people can and do recover.”
Recovery Month will include a variety of ceremonies, activities, and celebrations across the state. For information on events in your community, visit https://minnesotarecovery.org/upcoming-events/category/events/.
The Governor Dayton’s proclamation of September as Recovery Month can be found at https://mn.gov/dhs/assets/recovery-month-proclamation_tcm1053-309499.pdf.
At the October MNCCD Health and Wellness Conference Mercarik Assistive Technologies will be presenting an overview of many of the different assistive technologies available as well as giving an opportunity to play with a few of the devices to help get a better understanding. Though this session will be brief and not all areas will be addressed it will discuss commonly used solutions and some not often utilized.
In the meantime, I thought it might be a helpful to see what the Minnesota Olmstead plan has to say about assistive technology.
The Following is an unedited passage from Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan-
What this topic means
This topic is about people of all ages, all disabilities, and all settings having access to assistive and other technologies that will improve their quality of life and support them, especially in integrated settings.
The timely access to assistive and other technologies will result in progress on measurable goals found elsewhere in the Olmstead Plan. It is expected that the results can be measured in improved quality of life and increased movement from segregated settings to integrated settings.
It is also about building program capacity, leveraging resources and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of assistive technology services through coordination and collaboration among state agencies.
Definition of assistive technology
Assistive technology is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. This definition does not include a medical device that is
surgically implanted, or the replacement of such a device.”
Assistive technology service is any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. This includes:
o The evaluation of the needs of an individual with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the individual in the individual’s customary environments;
o Purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by individuals with disabilities;
o Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
o Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
o Training or technical assistance for individuals with a disability or, if appropriate, that individual’s family; and
o Training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of that individual.
Matthew Hansen ATP, EAS
Many individuals with disabilities rely on government programs to help them with their medical needs. Often these programs have limits on what kinds of assets a program participant can own. This can make it challenging for family and friends to care for the disabled person.
One tool that is available is a special type of trust that can hold assets without affecting a person’s medical benefits. These trusts come in two types.
Special Needs Trust
A Special Needs Trust holds assets belonging to an individual who is enrolled in a public benefits program. By placing their assets in trust, the enrollee can sometimes prevent these assets from being counted by the government program. This allows them to use their assets to their benefit instead of losing them to pay for care.
Supplemental Needs Trust
A Supplemental Needs Trust also holds assets on behalf of a disabled individual. Supplemental Needs Trusts differ from Special Needs Trusts. A Supplemental Needs Trust holds assets that originally belong to a 3rd party (like a parent or relative) and allow those assets to be used for the disabled person’s benefit.
Pluto Legal, PLLC operates differently than most firms. Our office and staff are located in Tyler, Minnesota, while our attorneys currently live in Olivia and St. Louis Park. The attorneys at Pluto Legal will make house calls throughout Minnesota. So, rather than asking you to travel and bring all of your information to our office, we meet with you in the comfort and privacy of your own home or other convenient location.
We offer a no charge consultation to review your situation and base our recommendation on only what you need. We will never recommend services to you that are unnecessary.
We offer many workshops for community education and for Continuing Education Credits. Please contact Pluto Legal for more information Toll Free 1-866-457-3131, email@example.com 100 E. Hwy. 14, Tyler, MN 56178 or check out our website, www.plutolegal.com.
Health and wellbeing are dependent on many factors, including genetics, environment, and behavior. While some things are outside of our immediate control, other things – like learned behaviors – make a huge difference in how we feel. This cuts both ways, of course… less-skillful behaviors contribute to feelings of
dis-ease, while more-skillful behaviors contribute to feelings of wellbeing. Wellbeing is a feeling that signals alignment between our values, beliefs and behaviors. It is a feeling that communicates, “I am on the right track” and “Keep doing more of this because it is good for me.”
Compassionate communications is a tool to increase this critical alignment, along with feelings of wellbeing. When we identify and share feelings and needs, as well as listen to others through healthy conversations, we build trust, are able to form close relationships and feel valued and understood.
In the Compassionate Communication as Self-Care breakout session, we will expand our understanding of universal needs and experience the feelings associated with needs when they are met and unmet. We’ll talk about what is happening in our brains when we learn how to skillfully express our needs. Finally, we’ll have fun practicing this effective tool.
Compassionate communications is a wellbeing tool that can be learned and used by everyone, including caregivers and clients, parents and children, and nurses and patients. As we increase our skill, we increase our own health and the health of our organizations.
Ricka Robb Kohnstamm, ALIGN Whole Health Coaching, creates safe space for clients to untangle complex issues that contribute to feelings of dis-ease of mind, body or spirit. Through her soft, supportive approach, her clients find the courage within themselves to embrace a meaningful, always evolving life.
Ricka will be a Presenter at our October Health and Wellness Conference.
Life before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was not the good old days if you had a disability. I was injured in a farming accident when I was about two years old and grew up with a spinal cord injury. I couldn’t wait to move to the big city when I was a teenager, and I stayed with friends in Minneapolis at every opportunity. Life in the 70’s and 80’s was difficult if you were an active wheelchair user. Public transportation was not accessible, buildings entrances were generally not accessible, restrooms were not accessible and curb-cuts were few and far between. Life back then was so dramatically different from today that it’s difficult trying to compare the two worlds.
If you were a wheelchair user and wanted to take a public bus, you had two choices; either talk someone into pulling you up the steps of the bus while in your chair, or get out of your chair (if able) rump it up the steps and ask a total stranger to fold up your wheelchair and carry it up the steps of the bus.
Getting into and out of buildings was an ongoing fight where I and others with disabilities had to constantly ask for assistance. Sometimes people would simply stare and keep walking, other times people were more than happy to help. But the reality was, one had to ask for help on a daily basis just to negotiate the stores, businesses and government buildings in their community.
Accessible, functional restrooms did not exist. When I did find that rare restroom that I could get into – the wheelchair accessible stall was 36” wide and without enough wheelchair space in front of the toilet to close the stall door. So, if you have to live in an inaccessible world without accessible restrooms, you learn to adapt, be creative and do what needs to be done. Curb cuts pretty much didn’t exist outside of a few intersections in downtown Minneapolis, so I and others learned where the alley entrances were and tried to avoid getting hit by vehicles.
Life is different today, the country is far more accessible, and the ADA has had a very positive impact! Not that we don’t have much to do yet and miles to go – but we are making measurable progress.
As of late, there has been an increase in efforts to weaken the ADA. We must fight those efforts and unite as a community to reaffirm our rights! Please join us on July 26th for a Disability Rights March and Rally. We are meeting at the Minnesota History Center at 1:00 pm to march down John Ireland Blvd to the Capitol. Once at the Capitol we will have a rally in the Rotunda with speakers and entertainment. Come and join us as we celebrate the most important disability rights legislation in our Nation’s history!
Margot Imdieke Cross, Accessibility Specialist
Minnesota Council on Disability
Medicaid, which is Medical Assistance or MA in Minnesota, is a household term for many people with disabilities and their families. Nationally, over 10 Million people with disabilities utilize Medicaid to help them be independent and stay in the community.
Proposals at the Federal level would cut Medicaid by 25% in the first 10 years, and 33% within 20 years. There is simply no way to make this level of reduction without harming people with disabilities’ ability to live in the community.
Medicaid provides far beyond hospital care and doctor visits. Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) is actually optional under Medicaid for states. When steep reductions to Medicaid are made at the Federal level, states will be required to make tough decisions about rate reductions to services, changing eligibility, or limiting services that are provided. HCBS is one of the largest areas of spending in Medical Assistance, and due to the optional nature of it, will be very vulnerable when cuts are made.
In Minnesota, Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken have been vocal opponents of reductions to Medicaid through the current proposals in Congress. There are some key states that you can reach out to where the Senators are on the fence. Please contact your networks and ask them to reach their U.S. Senators and tell them to vote NO and protect Medicaid.
You can find the tools you need, including the key states, what to say and the number to call at www.thisismedicaid.org. Follow @ThisIsMedicaid on twitter and ‘This Is Medicaid’ on Facebook to easily access resources and connect to others who want to protect Medicaid.
Watch this video and share it with your networks:
By: Susie Emmert Schatz, MSW LGSW
Sr. Director of Advocacy, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota
MNCCD Board Member