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Rachel Ridout

 As the hard work of another legislative session begins, we want to focus briefly on a major cost driver in today’s state budget: health care for people with disabilities and complex medical conditions.

The November forecast provided us all with both good and sobering news. The state economy is on the rebound, and year-end revenues were higher than expected. However, double-digit increases in long-term care spending are anticipated for the next several years. While much good work related to health reform is now happening within the Department of Human Services (DHS), additional efforts are needed so that Minnesota can continue to thrive, and invest in education, transportation, and public safety, among other critical areas.

Courage Center has long taken a pragmatic and constructive approach to public policy, especially in difficult budget times. We strongly support efforts to better target health services based on an improved assessment system (MnCHOICES), which will soon link an individual’s needs with their budget allocation to meet those needs. Reform 2020 has multiple redesign elements that promise to make the Medicaid (or Medical Assistance) program more accountable and responsive. As it is today, the Medical Assistance program (MA) provides medical and social support services to about 100,000 Minnesotans with disabilities. But it is too expensive. It needs to change. It needs to change this year.

Courage Center soon will be coming forward with a proposal to better define the value of these taxpayer-funded services. Today we spend billions to support our state’s most vulnerable citizens, but cannot say what we’re getting in terms of outcomes for the dollars invested.

We understand people with disabilities need to take responsibility for their own health, often in partnership with government and the nonprofit community. Part of that responsibility includes embracing a rigorous therapy regimen to maximize health and independence. Courage Center provides such opportunities to thousands every year, including Rachel Ridout in the photo above. Our outcomes data show we’re pretty good at it.

Significant improvements in mobility and memory for those with brain injuries like Rachel save taxpayer dollars. Courage Center can tell you exactly how much improvement Rachel experienced in her therapy program. Most providers can’t.

Encouraging healthy living and personal responsibility for people with disabilities is just another example of how at Courage Center we’re always pushing people to expect more from themselves to be active and contributing members of their home communities.

Number Crunching

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 17,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

In 2012, there were 25 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 92 posts. There were 32 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 11 MB. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was June 20th with 381 views. The most popular post that day was A health care model we can’t build alone.

Where did they come from?

world map

44 countries in all including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Russia, Czech Republic, Great Britain, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Iraq and Malaysia. Most visitors came from The United States. Indonesia & Canada were not far behind.

How did they find us?

The top referring sites in 2012 were:

  1. couragecenter.org
  2. facebook.com
  3. twitter.com
  4. mnccd.wordpress.com
  5. linkedin.com

MN-CCD Kick Off 2013

Please join us for a special panel where state and legislative leaders will discuss the status of health care in Minnesota, the challenges we face in health and long term care reform, as well as solutions for the future. The panelists will include Health and Human Services leaders from the House and Senate, as well as experts from Department of Human Services.

Friday, January 18 from Noon to 1:30 pm
Kelly Inn – 161 St. Anthony Ave., St Paul MN 55103

The program will include a panel presentation with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions, information about the MN-CCD Tuesdays at the Capitol advocacy program, as well as free hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

Please RSVP to Christian Knights at christian.knights@couragecenter.org by Jan. 14 to assure your seat. Walk-ins are also welcome. For questions or information, you can email or call 763-520-0725.

MN-CCD Kick Off High Res QR Code

With the 2012 elections confirming President Obama’s second term nationally and Minnesota seeing its state House and Senate flip from Republican to DFL controlled, November 6 was a busy day for transitions. However, with Minnesota’s voter turnout once again highest in the nation, it was important to reflect on the demographics that are often under represented at the polls. According to a study out of Rutgers and the University of Arkansas, individuals with disabilities are 20% less likely to vote than individuals without disabilities with similar demographics. Armed with this figure, Courage Center; funded by the support of the Minnesota based Frey Foundation, was able to carry out a unique free ‘Rides to the Polls’ project, aiming at reducing the disability participation gap in the Twin Cities metro. Drawing on experiences from 2008 and 2010, and partnering with other disability focused organizations, Courage Center created an infrastructure for people which included a free phone hotline, ride scheduling system, renting four fully accessible minivans, as well as a cadre of trained and engaged volunteers to drive the project.

So with the dust settled on the 2012 elections, we have had some time to look at the work on November 6, and celebrate what was accomplished.

BY THE NUMBERS

The most important number of course is the total number of people we were able to get to their polling station on Election Day. In total we were able to take 146 people to vote. This was achieved through 95 completed rides (many of the rides served multiple passengers).

 We operated from 7 am to 8 pm on November 6, and the breakdown of rides looked like this:

7:00 – 9:00 AM – 7 rides and there were 3 no shows/cancels

9:00 – 1:00 PM – 37 rides and there were 6 no shows/cancels

1:00 – 5:00 PM – 33 rides and there were 9 no shows/cancels

5:00 – 8:00 PM – 18 rides and there were 9 no shows/cancels

Not counting multiples with the same ride, there were 75 ride requests set up prior to Election Day and 45 ride requests processed on the day.

The phone line provided support for the much of the scheduling and questions. In all it rang 357 times. While the majority of calls were for information about rides, we also linked the line to the MN Disability Law Center, so individuals could get their expert help on election protection issues.

Driving the program was the incredible volunteers we had working on this. In all we had 57 volunteers carrying out work including: driving their own vehicle, driving or navigating in the minivans, leading the driver training sessions- which helped produce the best possible outcome of no accidents or incidents on the day, all the way to answering the phone, printing off directions and acting as dispatch for all rides.

Above all, a big thank you must go out to everyone that helped with this successful project, from referring clients, to spreading the word, and even volunteering on the day. We hope to continue to make a dent in voter participation disparity with similar projects moving forward.  Bring on 2014!

With Florida confirmed as blue and with the dust settling on President Barack Obama’s 9-point win in Minnesota, it’s time to reflect on what happened last Tuesday, and what exactly does it mean in 2013.

First let’s take a look at the federal picture. As predicted from the outset, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar won in a landslide, beating GOP nominee Kurt Bills 66 percent to 30 percent. Senator Klobuchar and her party were also able to maintain control of the Senate. With 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate being contested in 2012, the Democrats were gained two seats with the resultant majority being 53-45. (Two Senators, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are expected to caucus with the Democrats). However, the Democrats still remain short of the three-fifths vote needed to halt a Senate filibuster.

In the US House the Republicans remain in control, though with a slightly reduced majority. As it stands, the GOP currently has 234 seats to the Democrats 195, with six races still too close to call. In Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann won by a razor-thin margin in the 6th Congressional District, edging hotelier Jim Graves by just a few thousand votes, while former Congressman Rick Nolan’s defeated GOP U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack in the 8th District. The latter was one of the most expensive congressional races of 2012.) US Reps. Tim Walz, John Kline, Erik Paulsen, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, and Collin Peterson all comfortably won re-election. Thus, the new Minnesota delegation will have a 5-3 balance in favor of the Democrats when the 113th Congress convenes.

Moving to the state legislature, it was a time for change. The first Republican-controlled Legislature in modern Minnesota history ended abruptly, seeing the House and Senate switch to the DFL. They now control both chambers and the Governor’s office. House Democrats posted a net gain of 11 seats in winning a 73-61 majority, and their Senate counterparts gained a total of eight seats in claiming a 39-28 advantage. Democrats reclaimed their majorities by dominating in the three dozen most closely contested races, including 17 of 20 wins in the House and 13 of 16 in the Senate. Right now the Minnesota House has two close races that triggered automatic recounts. State law requires a recount for any race that ends with a margin of one-half of 1 percent or less. One of these races includes potentially the closest outcome in state history. In District 8B, Rep. Mary Franson beat DFL challenger Bob Cunniff by a single vote. Proof if ever needed that your vote really can make a difference. The other close race is Northfield’s Senate District 20,where DFL Sen. Kevin Dahle squeaked out a win over retired FBI agent and GOP candidate Michael Dudley on Tuesday. However, Dahle’s 50.04 percent of the vote was just 0.2 percent more than Dudley’s tally.

Leadership positions for the upcoming 2013 session have already been named. In the Senate, Sen. Tom Bakk from District 6 on the Iron Range will be the new Senate majority leader, with Sen. Katie Sieben from District 57 serving as assistant majority leader. Sen. Sandy Pappas from District 65 will be the new Senate president. In the House Rep. Paul Thissen (63A) will continue to lead his party, this time as speaker of the House instead of minority leader. Rep. Erin Murphy (64A) will be the majority leader.

The now minority GOP opted to go in different directions in each body. In the Senate they elected Sen. David Hann from District 43 as minority leader, flanked by assistants Sens. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake, Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes, Warren Limmer of Maple Grove and David Thompson of Lakeville. The GOP House elected Rep. Kurt Daudt (17A) as their minority leader, a relative newcomer to the Capitol and viewed as a moderate within his party.

So what does all this mean? Well it’s probably too early to predict right now. Though continued progress on implementing Minnesota’s health exchange, and different ways to solve the predicted state budget deficit look more certain.

Stay tuned in in the next few weeks for a more detailed preview of the 2013 session when the November Budget forecast is revealed.

  • For a picture of what the new House and Senate look like click here
  • For the Senate Committee Chairs click here
  • For the House Committee Chairs click here 

HAVE YOUR VOICE HEARD IN 2012

 Although voter turnout is expected to be high on November 6, people with disabilities are 20 percent less likely to vote than people without disabilities. The difficulty of getting to the polls is often just too great a barrier. The Rides to Polls coalition aims to help overcome this barrier to voting in the Twin Cities metro area by providing free, accessible rides, including four accessible minivans targeted specifically for people with disabilities.

 Courage Center, Goodwill/Easter Seals,  Merrick, Inc. and Arc Greater Twin Cities are just a few of the many Minnesota nonprofit organizations that have formed this unique, nonpartisan coalition.

CALL 1-855-50-RIDES

Eligible voters can call 1-855-50-RIDES (1-855-507-4337) or email publicaffairs@couragecenter.org  to schedule a ride to and from their precinct polling place. Trained volunteer drivers will assist at pick up and drop off if required.  The service is available from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Twin Cities metro area.

Find out more at www.couragecenter.org/advocate 

Despite the cries from both campaigns that it’s the economy that will decide the winners and losers in this year’s elections, according to social sharing company ShareThis, the issue that is being pondered most by voters is in fact health care. More importantly, health care story reporting has become even more pronounced in the key battleground states.

The graphic above shows that 16.1% of total shares in 12 battleground states are stories about health care. Of the other share issues, over 12% are stories relating to abortion, followed by education, the economy, role of government, gun control, environment, same-sex marriage, terrorism and foreign policy. The figures in New Mexico are even more revealing, with health care stories being shared the most at 45%.

What does this actually mean? Well, while the data doesn’t measure sentiment of each post and though it isn’t a scientific poll, it does provide insight into which topics are generating the most online buzz in each state. Thus, in this digital age where online reaction, opinions and information are available at the touch of a mouse button and can go viral in seconds, the types of news being shared will have a great impact on how both parties shape their campaigns in the final months before November 6. It is also a vision into the minds of potential voters in these key battleground states. If indeed health care is such an key issue, the future of the Affordable Care Act, reshaping Medicare, the Health Insurance Exchanges could receive major coverage in the Presidential debates and not only help shape the future of health reform , but help choose the future leader of the country.

So how realistic is it to use sharing stories as a gauge on issue importance? According to a CNN  poll, 48% said healthcare is the most important domestic and social issue, followed by education with 33%. 7% chose gun policy, 6% said abortion, and 5% selected same-sex marriage. However, that poll finds that the economy is more important than any other type of issue to registered voters, with 59% saying they care about economic issues the most, 33% caring about domestic and social the most, and only 4% choosing foreign policy.

The truth is that the reality lies somewhere in between, and in reality it would not be too hard to link many of the issues together anyway. For example, the costs associated with health care reform have major budgetary and fiscal impact, as well as being a key driver of the economy. What is good news though is that health care is still in people’s consciousness, and as the baby boomer tsunami and ACA implementation approaches us at great speed, that is a good thing, too.

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