March Happenings at Bear Creek Services.

Linda1_1

It seems that each year during the legislative session, I create a blog discussing how we need your support to let our legislators know that disability services needs more funds. 

This year is no exception.  I do believe that our state leaders realize that something has to be done to address the need for more funding.  I am not convinced, however, that there is a true understanding of just how challenging things are right now for all disability services organizations in our state.  We are trying our hardest to help them understand.

Rochester continues to have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.  Every employer says the same thing: “We can’t find enough good employees”.  We are no exception.  We have done a lot to try to retain our current employees.  We also on-board new employees with the tools they need to feel confident in their job here at Bear Creek Services.  Yet, due to funding challenges, we are not able to compete when it comes to compensation that we can offer people.   Many of our Direct Support Professionals (DSP's) struggle to provide their family with a living wage.

I have been to the State Capitol on four occasions already this session.  Cindy Ostrowski (Hiawatha Homes) and I met with Representative Tina Liebling.  We discussed the 7% funding cut that began to phase in last year, and provided Tina with ideas on how to address the cut through a “competitive workforce factor”.  Jenna Bandel, our Program Coordinator for Oxford group home, was also present at this meeting.  Jenna talked about the detriment that staff turnover has for the guys who live at Oxford group home.  The negative effects for people we support in all of our programs are significant.

Twice during this legislative season, I have participated in larger demonstrations seeking support for funding rate increases for disability services.  I attended both The Arc and ARRM disability days at the capitol.  At the AARM day, there were at least one thousand individuals in attendance.  There were more than 100 from Rochester alone!  Our senators and representatives were taken aback by the number of people who attended. 

Dave Senjem agreed to speak directly to the chair of the Health and Human Services Policy Committee to support the language needed to make disability services whole from last year's 7% funding cut.  At the Arc day at the capital, Duane Sauke agreed to author a separate bill to provide Bear Creek Services with more funding for our Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) called Allendale house.  Allendale house is a home to six individuals who have high levels of medical needs. 

Last week, I testified on behalf of the bill addressing the funding increase for Allendale house.  I was one of four ICF directors who were advocating for a rate increase.  With so many ICFs seeking an increase in funding, an educational session broke out from the Department of Human Services for the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee members. 

We testified to this important point:  Bear Creek Services has had the same funding rate at Allendale house since the house opened in 1997.  Over the past 20+ years. there have been a few minor increases.  Over that time, the cost of providing support services has far exceeded the increases that we have been given.  At the time that this blog was posted, the bill for increased funding for Allendale house is still in consideration.

Soon, we will be asking you to contact legislators regarding specific bills to address the funding concerns we have been talking about for years. 

Due to the fact that Governor Walz has included some funding in his proposed budget, I have hope.  I believe our collective voices are being heard, and that this year we might see some changes.  Stay tuned.  The session ends May 20th.  A lot can happen between now and then. 

I know we can get something good accomplished together!

Sincerely,

Linda Driessen
Executive Director
Bear Creek Services




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