Health Care

“Will Work for Change”

By | Health Care, Le Sueur County, Rice County | No Comments

“Will Work for Change,” emblazoned the yellow tee-shirts of about 25 students from the Social Work program at St. Olaf College, at the Capitol this past Monday. They joined about 700 other undergraduate students from colleges around the state to talk to us about specific legislative policies that truly make a difference in people’s lives. Unfortunately, these occupations don’t offer a great salary, underscoring the passion these young men and women have for a career choice that satisfies them in so many other ways. These students have a clear desire to empower individuals and advocate for their well-being within the communities in which they live. Minnesota would benefit immensely from many more young service-oriented professionals like them. Unfortunately, few follow a professional path in this direction because a common theme spans social work and related career fields: low wages and worker shortages. This was reinforced at recent meetings with nursing home workers at a meeting in Owatonna and a town hall meeting for persons with disabilities in Faribault.  Potential employees take better paying jobs at hospitals and clinics or choose other career options perpetuating the problem.

Providing high quality community services requires not just social workers, but also transit drivers, housekeepers, cooks, crisis managers, medical care providers, not to mention those who help with bathing and dressing. The people who work these jobs are passionate, caring people who love their clients and the sense of purpose it brings them. Unfortunately, they really do work for “change,” averaging just $11.55/hour with many making much less. Too often, low wages lead to higher turnover, which reduces the quality of care. The people who want to do this work are out there, but low pay is a severe barrier to continuing their careers. Too often, they don’t even start because of it.

My soon to be 16-year-old daughter will be looking for a summer job in the next month or so. I suggested she consider one of our local care facilities, hoping she would learn some of the skills that come with a tough job that provides dignity, safety, and hope to our community members. She looked at me quizzically and mumbled something about a job at a cash register with flexible hours. When a retail job can earn just as much or even more, it was difficult for me to make a compelling case for this industry to someone just entering the workforce. Of course, we need retail employees too, but I have concerns about the future of our seniors, people with disabilities, and our community’s most vulnerable. Unless we address the low pay and the current funding model for our counties, nursing homes, and home and community-based services, we will face a crisis within a few short years. Some would argue we have already reached that crisis point.

Listening to social workers, care providers, nurses, administrators, and others share their passion for their rewarding careers reinforces the need that we as a state must do more. The quality of life of our seniors and citizens with disabilities depends on it. There are bills in legislature that offer solutions. They include Medical Assistance reform and another 5% campaign (increasing compensation to care providers). The time is now. I applaud those who really do “work for change.”


More for Long term Care

By | Health Care | No Comments

Last week I visited the Millstream Commons Assisted living facility in Northfield.  Over the years, I have visited several long term care facilities and nursing homes in my district.  Meeting and talking with the administrators and staff in these facilities is always illuminating.  It is also emotional and from a policy perspective, it is frustrating.  As a state, we need to do more to support these workers and these facilities.

Two years ago, the Minnesota legislature passed the “5% campaign” which gave a 5% increase in state funding to our long term care facilities statewide.  Last year, we passed another 5% increase to community based care facilities that support individuals with special needs.  That was a start.  We barely made a dent in addressing the long term fiscal health of these facilities.

Workers once again shared their stories of low pay while administrator spoke of the difficulty in attracting and retaining quality workers.  One employee is holding 3 jobs to make ends meet for her family.  Workers with years of experience talked about how little their pay has increased since they were hired over 2 decades ago.  Workers are lost to grocery stores or restaurants that pay better, even at a starting wage. How does this profession attract new employees thinking about a career in health care?

We should be concerned.  Many long term care facilities are losing money and turning clients away.  As our parents and grandparents mature and the need for care increases, facilities in my district and across Minnesota struggle to meet the demands.  The state’s funding mechanism is broken leading to inequities and a lack of adequate services across the state.

These employees are passionate about the work they do.  They love working with the clients they serve. They are doing everything they can to provide the best quality of life for them.  We need to focus on fixing the funding formula, increasing long term care worker’s wages, and ensuring adequate options for people and families across the state.  We can and must do more.


2012 Endorsements!

By | Campaigns, Economy, Education, Environment, Health Care, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 20, Transportation, Uncategorized | No Comments

I am proud to be endorsed by the following organizations in my upcoming election for the Minnesota State Senate.  It is truly a great cross section of the many groups and supporters  in areas such as equality, education, working class Minnesotans, public services, safety, environment and natural resources, and health care.  I am anxious to work for all of my constituents as we take back the legislature and provide a voice for the people of this great State.

Sierra Club
Minnesota Farm Bureau
Minnesota Farmers Union PAC
Education Minnesota
MN Nurses Association
Clean Water Action
AFSCME Council 65
MPPOA - MN Police & Peace Officers  Association
Planned Parenthood
DFL Veterans Caucus
United Transportation Union
Care Providers of MN
Outfront Minnesota
MN Professional Firefighters
Project 515
Small Business Minnesota PAC
Take Action MN

No, Thank You.

By | Economy, Education, Health Care | No Comments

I recently held a town meeting in a small town on the Western side of my Senate district. As the town meeting turned its focus to the budget crisis, one gentleman stood up claiming to have all of the answers regarding Minnesota’s budget woes. He said he had a proposal for “solving the state’s budget deficit without raising taxes.” I said I was interested in his “list” and he said he would be sure to send it to me. Sure enough, a few days ago I received a document outlining what some of those cuts might look like. Here is a small sampling of some of what Minnesota could expect (and I quote):

• Eliminate intrusive and ineffective home visiting and mental health screening programs
• Eliminate Early Childhood Professional Development
• Eliminate Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and Intervention Programs
• Eliminate Preschool screening and ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education)
• Eliminate Early Childhood Literacy
• Eliminate After School Community Learning Grants
• Repeal the public school staff development mandate
• Reduce the number of MNSCU campuses
• Require the DNR to fully self-fund via fees
• Eliminate Local Government Aid
• Reduce Court appropriations and increase attorney’s annual license
• Reduce Human Rights Department funding
• Provide Health Insurance subsidies, not Health care services and payments

No thank you. If this list is a solution, count me out. The cuts to early childhood education alone would set this state back 30 years creating a host of problems for years to come. We need to reaffirm the connection between intelligent investments and the public benefits we receive in return. We are a state of community minded people who care about our children, our neighbors, the elderly, and the poor. We value these public assets and most of us are more than willing to pay for them.

The document to which I refer comes from the Minnesota Budget Solutions Coalition which includes organizations such as the Minnesota Majority, Taxpayers League of Minnesota, Minnesota Family Council, and NFIB Minnesota Chapter… to name a few.

GAMC Smackdown

By | Health Care | No Comments

I first learned of the Governor’s veto of the GAMC (Government Assistance Medical Care) program when I picked up the newspaper off the front porch this morning. I was more than disappointed. The elimination of the GAMC program, effective April 15th, will mean nearly 35,000 extremely low income adults will be without basic physical and mental health care at any given time. Most are men (60%), most struggle with mental illness and/or chemical dependence (70%), many have chronic disabilities (40%), and are homeless (25-40%). Many of the adults who qualify for GAMC are living on $203 per month (maximum $677 per month). This is nowhere near enough income to pay for basic necessities or health insurance premiums.

I had hoped the Governor would sign this bill. Controversial or even costly aspects of the bill were removed to accommodate some of the concerns of the Governor. The bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support garnering a 47-16 vote in the Senate and a 125-9 vote in the House, however, House Republicans say they are not interested in an override meaning a lot of votes would flip-flop should the bill be revisited.

The life of a community and the measure of our moral fiber as a people depends on the way we treat those who are most vulnerable. We can count pennies in our attempt to balance a budget, but we should never lose sight of the human community we hope to create. Failure to do so is the ultimate morning headline.