Disability service organizations make voices heard at capitol

After being knocked by last year’s state budget, disability service organizations are asking for more funding to be able to recruit and retain employees.

Posted: Mar 14, 2019 7:37 AM
Updated: Mar 28, 2019 8:58 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Disability service organizations in the area are coming together to make their voices heard.

On Tuesday, over a hundred people from these agencies in Olmsted County went to the St. Paul to fight for funding.

Last year, the field was knocked with a 7% decrease in budget from the state which only catalyzed the staffing shortage.

“With the staff shortage the way that it is right now, and then providing such low wages to those folks...it's really becoming a dangerous situation,” Kasi Haglund, executive director of Adapta and one of the people who went to the capital, said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, wages for direct support professionals in this field are about 17% less than that of similar jobs.

“When you have staff working with very ill people sometimes or people who are medically fragile or behavioral, and they're working double shifts, sometimes dangerous things can happen or you're just not having shifts covered,” Haglund said.

While at the state’s capital, the group asked legislators to support the bills SF06 and HF 179, which would give them an about 8% increase in funding.

Haglund hopes this would allow them to participate in the competitive workforce, and recruit and retain employees.

With the unity of all the organizations, she said she does feel like their message was heard.

“We all serve a certain niche and we all work so well together that having a bus with multiple agencies on one bus together to share a common message is very powerful. And that doesn't happen everywhere,” she said.

Senator Carla Nelson and Senator David Senjem are just two of the legislators the group met with. Lawmakers gave no timeline on the fate of the legislation other than the end of the session in May.

Until then, people in the field plan to keep fighting.

“We know there are a lot of people fighting for the same pool of money. So, our message is really, we need to continue doing what we’re doing,” Haglund said. “We want to keep that movement up at the capital…we know that that works, and we know that that is important and lawmakers really do hear what their constituents are saying. So, what we’re asking is for people to continue to share that message.”

To learn more about the proposed legislation, click here.

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