Cuts to provider rates for disabled being evaluated at Cedar Valley

Published 7:30 pm Thursday, July 5, 2018

By Deb Nicklay, Austin Daily Herald


Home and community-based services for the disabled may be reduced in this area, thanks to a 7 percent cut in funding to Minnesota disability service providers.

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Despite months of fighting the Department of Human Services against the potential reduction, cuts went into effect on July 1, said Cedar Valley Services Executive Director Rich Pavek. He said the cut amounts to about $300,000.

It was not a surprise: Pavek and his peers in the state of Minnesota have been sounding the alarm on the impact of such a cut over the past several months. However, Gov. Mark Dayton included the reduction in the Omnibus Tax Bill.

A legal avenue — that, if successful, would have stopped the reduction — failed in court on June 28.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright denied the request filed two weeks ago to stop the cuts in a case filed against DHS. The suit goes against four individuals representing a plaintiff class of people with disabilities in Minnesota, as well as the Association of Residential Resources, and Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation. While the funding is federal, it is distributed through the state of Minnesota.

The distribution helps to fund day training and habilitation programs in Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna. Cedar Valley serves just under 600 clients in Mower, Freeborn, Waseca,  Rice and Steele counties and employs 212 staff members.

The majority of the program’s operating expense is in employee wages, Pavek said. Services provided by them include daily living, building of vocational skills , social and behavioral skills, speech therapy, personal care training and other supportive services. Since much of the programming and many services are required by law, cuts have to come in staff, or delays in raising wages.

Lower wages means CVS is less competitive in the marketplace for obtaining the right employees, Pavek said.

“This is a people business,” he said, highlighting the need for people who can work with clients who are challenged in different ways.

“We are going to work hard to maintain services at a time when we are struggling to find proper help,” he said.

The reduction will occur over a period of time, he said.

“We’re looking at everything we can that doesn’t affect programming,” he said, adding all changes will be weighed carefully. Giving each client what they need to be independent and active in the community is paramount, he added.

Anything else, he said, “just isn’t in our DNA.”

Plaintiffs in the court case argued that planned cuts would violate the rights of waiver recipients and their providers “because it is arbitrary, capricious and inconsistent with Minnesota statute,” according to a statement released by the Wallace Group that represents the agencies. “Allowing the cut to go into effect would cause irreparable harm to more than 32,000 people who rely on supportive services and the more than 300 provider organizations that supply the services.”

Pavek was quick to note that local legislators “were very supportive” of the fight to ward off the cuts.

“We will just have to keep trying; to try again next year,” Pavek said.