This week, I had a chance to attend the Aging Services Board of Director’s and Opinion Leaders gathering in St. Paul. This event is held each year to give those in attendance an idea of what challenges and opportunities lay ahead for the coming year.
The biggest item that I came away with from this year’s meeting is that our advocacy efforts must be strong again this year. We heard from the Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch who spoke strongly about the need to get our message across. This year, more than any, it is important to speak with our legislators about the various topics that are important to our seniors and our staff. In Minnesota, 1/3rd or 30% of the legislature are new.
We also heard from Representative Larry Hosch, the Minority Whip and Senator Tom Bakk, the Minority Leader who spoke passionately about not only our voices, but the voice of our residents be heard.
Sen. Bakk stated, “We, as a state have to decide what we want to be good at. We can’t continue to make small cuts to every program and think that those cuts will solve everything. If we continue to make small cuts to all of the programs, what we will end up with is being not good at a lot of things. Instead we need to focus on what we want to be good at and make cuts accordingly.”
When state legislators are sitting at the capitol reviewing spreadsheets about making cuts across the board, there needs to be a name and story associated with the decisions that they are making every day.
A recent editorial to the Star Tribune from Gayle Kvenvold, president of Aging Services of Minnesota and Patti Cullen, president of Care Providers of Minnesota, took aim at a recent article on regarding a push to harness Medicaid costs stated:
“Continuing to lay the budget deficit at the feet of “the runaway cost of state medical programs for the elderly, the disabled and poor” misses a very important point: These programs have already been “reined in” a number of times over the past eight years and are saving the state money it would otherwise have spent.”
“The Elderly Waiver program, a home and community based Medicaid program serving more than 22,000 of Minnesota’s older adults, has proven its value to the state.” Because Elderly Waiver pays to support older adults in their homes and apartments instead of relying on more-expensive nursing homes, the state saved nearly $275 million in 2010.”
“Programs for the elderly also have contributed to budget solutions over the past several legislative sessions. Some providers of Elderly Waiver services have received rate reductions of 10 percent or more, while older adults are facing cuts in services for which they once qualified.”
So what can you do?
This legislature has made a commitment to being home in their districts each Friday during the session. We need to help educate the newly elected members of this legislature on what assisted living is and what that represents in savings to the state. We need to talk about the jobs that we help create in each of our communities. We need to talk about how the Elderly Waiver program is used in our communities, and to the extent that our residents really do consider our communities their homes. As we heard one person state, “home is where my dishes are”, you too should get your residents involved to tell them stories of how these programs have had a positive effect on their lives. We also need to show them that you are a community asset.
I’ve always said that relationships matter. If you haven’t already, you should build a relationship with your legislator. Many of those who were elected do not know much about what we do. It is our job to show them.
The people who were newly elected in to office need to hear our voice and more importantly, the voice of our residents on how decisions they make at the capitol will affect them. In the coming weeks, we will post more information on how you can get involved spreading the important message of older adult services in Minnesota.
- Sarah Work recently wrote on our blog on the New Legislature in Minnesota.
- To find out who your representatives are, click on the link for Aging Services of Minnesota’s Legislative Action Center.
- View a fact card on how assisted living provides efficient, cost-effective care for thousands of Minnesotans.
- Read the full letter from Gayle Kvenvold and Patti Cullen.