This March article can be summarized in one phrase – “Change is good when we change for the good.” I encourage you to read on further for more information.
On January 28, 2016, the Northeast Residence, Inc. Advocacy Committee held a very powerful and informative meeting. The speakers included, Ann Tulloch, Board member and the mom of a person served by NER; Caryl Aanenson, the sister of a person served by NER; Sandi Kollman and Jill McDonald, Sandi is Jill’s mom and Jill is served by NER; Shawn Roberts, an NER Supervisor; Tammy Luczynski, an NER Supervisor; and, Sean Burke, an Attorney at the Minnesota Disability Law Center.
This meeting was a very powerful meeting; it was emotional at times and it was very motivational in many ways. The people that are connected to NER through their loved ones spoke very passionately about their lives, how they came to be connected to NER and the appreciation of what NER means to their families. Each of these people spoke very highly of the staff and the care their loved ones are provided. The staff at NER that spoke showed who they are; committed and dedicated professionals that love what they do and the people they serve. Sean Burke provided us with his passion for people as well as his knowledge of the services provided through the past, today and into the future for people with disabilities.
When we invited Mr. Burke to speak, we asked him to speak about the past, the present and where we as a state and country are going in the delivery of services to people with disabilities. Mr. Burke did just that, he talked about the history of institutions and the development of community based services. He pointed out that even today, Minnesota in many ways still is ahead of the majority of other states when it comes to community based services. Mr. Burke then turned to the history of Olmstead and where the country and indeed Minnesota are moving. I will take the liberty to summarize his presentation about where we are going to say, we are moving in the direction of person centered planning and “individualized” services for people.
As person centered planning and individualized services discussions continue over the next few years, I want to assure you all that the NER Board of Directors and the NER Leadership are committed to providing the service that you and your loved ones receive today when that is your choice. NER is also committed to person centered planning and individualized services for the people we serve. As these concepts continue to evolve with strategies and DHS getting more involved, we too must continue to look to the future. Said even more clearly: NER will maintain our group home service model as well as the other programs we have as long as our clients desire these services at the same time looking toward the future it is possible we will be able to expand to other services and we are working toward planning this.
The term that sticks out for me is “individualized” services to all of our clients as well as clients we may serve in the future. I encourage you to reach out to either Shari Newgard or I if you would like more information.
As part of this discussion we must remember that our dedicated caregivers deserve a raise. The 2016 legislative session begins on March 8, 2016. I ask each and every one of you to write, e-mail and call your legislators to tell them to support the Best Life Alliance and a 5% increase for the staff that care for your loved ones. A draft letter is provided and I sincerely ask you to send your personalized story to your legislators. They do not know what we want unless we ask them. You can find who represents you by visiting this website: http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/. Each of your individual voices makes a difference.
As Caryl Aanenson, sister of a client served at NER said “For nearly 4 years now, you have loved and cared for my sister with the patience of a saint! I really do not know how you do it 24/7/…365! You see that she feels important and loved by each of you. You take her out and about, addressing her interests, and out to eat, which she loves. She has always been such an independent person, “I can do it myself” type of person. You now have to do most everything for her, yet you do it in such a caring way that much of the time she doesn’t realize that she is even being helped. We need more caring, loving, special people like you that do this out of compassion for helping others, not just for the money. What can we do to increase the pay and benefits that these caregivers are so deserving of? Retention is also so valuable for people with special needs as society has not given them a reason to trust people and life, when it is continually changing. They deserve compassionate caregivers and stability in a loving, home setting.”
Please contact your legislators, tell them how important the services are to you and your loved ones. Tell them that the staff that works with your loved ones need and deserve a raise.
I will end with the phrase I used in the beginning; “change is good when we change for the good.” I am not sure if this is a quote that can be attributed to anyone else, but it is what I will use and what I believe. NER is committed to providing quality services and experiences for all the people we serve and we will continue to make our families, our community and the people we serve proud to be a part of our community.
Heidi Holste, Executive Director