RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1158

Minnesota
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Minnesota Disability Law Center / Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
111 N. Fifth Street
Suite 100
Minneapolis
Minnesota
55403
612-332-1441
800-292-4150
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Dan Stewart
Hanne Goetz
612-746-3717
hgoetz@mylegalaid.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
11
0
0
0
0
2
13
B. Training Activities
14
850
The Minnesota Disability Law Center’s (MDLC) Client Assistance Project (CAP) staff delivered 25 trainings and outreach events throughout the state providing hundreds of participants from all over the disability community with information about CAP and vocational rehabilitation (VR) issues. Much of this training and outreach was impacted by or geared towards the COVID-19 pandemic; CAP staff utilized persistence and creativity in overcoming these barriers to ensure that training and outreach reached persons with disabilities, wherever they were. As in previous years, many of those presentations were to populations that have been unserved or underserved by Minnesota vocational rehabilitation agencies; such outreach activities are summarized below in Part I, C.

CAP staff made a presentation about CAP and MDLC services to student attorneys practicing at the University of Minnesota Housing Clinic. CAP staff made similar presentations to legal services attorneys at Minnesota Legal Services State Support and at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services.

CAP staff made presentations at NDRN’s national conference about safety considerations for monitoring, investigation and meeting clients, and retention and recruitment of P&A staff.

CAP staff made a presentation at an event sponsored by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, Metro Region, about employment outcomes for persons with disabilities. CAP staff also delivered a presentation about CAP and MDLC services and reasonable accommodations in employment to St. Paul vocational rehabilitation staff. CAP staff provided training to self-advocates collaborating with Lifeworks, a community rehabilitation program in the Twin Cities metro area, about civil rights and self-advocacy for persons with disabilities.
C. Agency Outreach
During this report period, CAP staff engaged in 11 outreach events throughout the state, which provided information about CAP services, VR rights and other disability rights. This outreach included disseminating information about CAP and MDLC services at the Minnesota Social Service Association conference in Minneapolis, at Disability Day at the Minnesota State Capitol, to disability service providers like case managers and staff from provider agencies sponsored by St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services in Northeastern Minnesota, at an event regarding Transition and Reentry sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Corrections in Washington County, a Twin Cities metro area suburb, and at the Minneapolis Community Connections Conference sponsored by the City of Minneapolis. We estimate over 5000 people attended these events.

CAP staff also began the first phases of “Into Adulthood,” a project designed to reach youth with disabilities aged 14-24. Into Adulthood is a multi-media project that includes information for youth about their rights with vocational rehabilitation, high school, post-secondary education, work, transportation, health insurance, and other benefits needed to work. After talking with youth and their families during outreach across Minnesota, we discovered that many youth and families do not know about their rights and the services that are available to them. The goal of the Into Adulthood project is to provide information about rights and services that youth need to transition to competitive, integrated employment and more independence.

CAP staff hope the Into Adulthood project will reach youth in a medium where they seek information, specifically on social media. During this fiscal year, CAP staff released a 41-page guide for transition youth, a video, and a podcast. We created a short video for transition youth that featured self-advocates and informed youth of their legal rights. The video was very well received. It was viewed 1,800 times on Facebook and 762 times on YouTube.

We also partnered with Jeff Thompson, the creator of the Blind Abilities podcast and the Chair of Minnesota’s State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, to record a podcast for transition youth. The podcast featured interviews with transition youth and CAP staff about legal rights. The podcast had 1,130 downloads and additional views on other platforms, such as YouTube. We hope to partner with Blind Abilities in the future, as well as create more videos and conduct outreach to share the Into Adulthood project with transition youth.

CAP staff also reviewed and updated all of their factsheets, available to the general public at LawHelpMN.org. These factsheets cover CAP services, eligibility for VRS and SSB services, scope of VR services, developing an Individualized Employment Plan, VR services for self-employment/small businesses, and appealing a VRS or SSB decision. These factsheets were then translated into several languages commonly used in Minnesota, including Somali, Hmong and Spanish.

CAP staff were also involved in MDLC monitoring of congregate care facilities in Minnesota undertaken during FY2020, to assess how persons with the most severe disabilities were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, what health protections were in place or being developed, and how employment services were being delivered during the pandemic. This monitoring was done virtually and included a remote-video tour of each facility and interviews of facility supervisors, staff, and residents/program participants. These facilities included group homes such as MSOCS 19th Avenue in Minneapolis, and MSOCS Anoka Burns and MSOCS Ableman, both in the suburban metro area. It also included other congregate care facilities such as the juvenile detention center Prairie Lakes Youth Programs – Secure and the residential care facility Southwestern Youth Services, both in Southwestern Minnesota. Further included were the adult day program Proworks, Inc., in western Minnesota, the Arrowhead Juvenile Center in Northeastern Minnesota, the children’s residential center Heartland Girls Ranch in Southwestern Minnesota, and mental health residential care facilities like Gull Harbor Apartments in Northwestern Minnesota, Guild South in the Twin Cities eastern metro area, and Family and Children’s Center Hiawatha Hall in Southeastern Minnesota.

In addition, CAP staff conducted outreach that was specifically targeted towards reaching historically unserved/underserved populations and minority communities.

Persons of Color:

CAP staff made a presentation to staff at the Legal Rights Center, including Native American, Latino and African American advocates, about CAP services, MDLC areas of practice and client intake processes. CAP staff also provided information about MDLC and CAP services at Martin Luther King, Jr., events sponsored by Minneapolis Community Technical College,

Native American Communities: CAP staff disseminated information about CAP and MDLC services to social workers, community members, medical providers and families at an event sponsored by the PROOF Alliance and Mystic Lake Casino, geared towards persons with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and social services staff serving that disability group.

Transition-Aged Students:

CAP staff made a presentation at NDRN’s national conference about educating students in a time of fear. CAP staff also delivered training at an event sponsored by State and National Student Equity about return to school issues for students with disabilities. CAP staff provided trainings to The Arc of Minnesota about special education during the COVID-19 pandemic, to PACER about working with VRS while on SSI and reasonable accommodations in employment, to staff from VRS and Minneapolis Public Schools about legal rights in special education and vocational rehabilitation, to parents and community members about classroom dismissals at an event sponsored by Solutions Not Suspensions and Educational Allies, and to social workers in Hennepin County about homeless youth and school discipline.

CAP staff also disseminated information about MDLC and CAP services at Minneapolis Community and Technical College’s Student Resource Fair, to homeless youth and inner-city students at Minneapolis South High School, and at a Town Hall Pandemic Planning event for students with disabilities and distance learning issues sponsored by The Arc of Minnesota.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
1
1
145
14
3
Factsheet on employment issues during the pandemic; written transition resource guide; Podcast on accessing employment supports.
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
MDLC wrote an article describing employment related concerns and other disability rights related concerns that arose during the Covid-19 pandemic. It was published in a newspaper called Access Press, which targets disability advocacy communities in Minnesota. Additionally, MDLC factsheets/materials on employment (and other topics) as well as our video and podcast are re-posted on non-MDLC social media.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
17
25
42
0
10
B. Problem areas
6
10
14
2
0
8
0
1
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
6
5
11
0
0
0
22
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
9
6
2
2
0
3
0
0
0
0
0
0
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E. Results achieved for individuals
5
0
1
0
11
5
0
0
0
0
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Part III. Program Data
A. Age
4
5
7
21
5
42
B. Gender
20
22
42
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
0
0
0
6
0
29
1
6
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
4
1
0
0
0
1
5
1
3
0
0
0
2
0
0
1
0
1
0
0
16
0
0
0
1
2
0
0
0
4
0
0
0
0
42
E. Types of Individuals Served
4
0
32
0
6
0
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
0
FY2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic, brought substantial change to the way vocational rehabilitation services were delivered in Minnesota, as VR counselors started working from home, community rehabilitation program operations were greatly restricted or shut down entirely, and meetings could no longer be held in person. Similarly, CAP staff had to adjust to working remotely and attending meetings via videoconference. Consequently, CAP staff prioritized this issue when communicating with VRS and SSB agency officials during state rehabilitation council meetings and CAP-SSB meetings. Meetings with VRS officials to discuss these issues have now also been set up.

CAP continued its advocacy and monitoring efforts around development of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between VRS, SSB and Minnesota’s Department of Human Services (DHS). The MOU concerns eligibility, service delivery and financial responsibilities between the agencies regarding habilitation and rehabilitation of individuals with the most severe disabilities who are receiving waivered disability services. CAP is continuing to work with DHS, VRS and SSB to monitor, review, and provide input as agency officials and community stakeholders develop written policies and guidance to implement the MOU; CAP staff have a seat on an advisory council set up during the fiscal year to develop policies around implementation of the MOU and are regularly attending meetings of that group.

In past fiscal years CAP has monitored and provided advocacy regarding VRS’ Order of Selection, which since 2014 operated to restrict the number of consumers newly eligible for VR services. VRS’ waiting list had ballooned to more than 3,000 individuals, hundreds of which were transition-aged students. CAP staff regularly questioned VRS agency officials about the status of the waiting list and referrals to other sorts of employment services made available to individuals on the waiting list and continued to advocate for movement off the waiting list in its individual client casework. CAP also emphasized accurate information about VRS’ Order of Selection and how it works in its training and outreach efforts and provided information and advocacy assistance for individuals interested in challenging OOS denials. During FY2020, VRS worked to move individuals still interested in VR services off their waiting list, culminating in the announcement that they would open up Categories 2 and 3 of their OOS. This meant that everyone on the waiting list with one or more substantial functional limitations was taken off the waiting list and provided VR services so that they could gain or regain employment.
B. Litigation
0
0
0
During the fiscal year CAP staff undertook no systemic litigation activities involving individual representation, relying instead on more informal review and mediation procedures which successfully resolved cases before having to resort to formal administrative or legal remedies.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Minnesota Disability Law Center / Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
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B. Staff Employed
2019-2020 Personnel Summary FTE % of Year Filled Person Yrs

Attorney Full Time 0.70 100% 0.70
Attorney Part Time 0.30 100% 0.30
Paralegal Full Time 0.51 100% 0.51
Paralegal Part Time 0.05 100% 0.05
Clerical Full Time 0.51 100% 0.51
Clerical Part Time 0.00 100% 0.00
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
An African-American woman with mental health disabilities was in a graduate school program in California to become a Spanish language interpreter, and VRS had granted her an exception from their private school/out of state tuition fee schedule because of the uniqueness of the program. The woman was terminated from that program and switched to another program involving international affairs. VRS had told her she would then no longer get the benefit of the tuition fee schedule exception. She called MDLC/CAP for assistance. CAP staff investigated the woman’s case and then advised her and worked with her on a new request for exception so that she could continue in her school program with no fee schedule applied. VRS granted the exception request and the woman was able to continue her vocational training.

An African-American man called MDLC when he was unable to get the VR services he needed to proceed with his small business, which included t-shirts with his designs, film-making and selling a book he wrote. He had gotten small business grant from VRS previously and had not spent the entire amount granted, but VRS would not allow him to access the rest of the funding. CAP staff investigated and then worked with client and VRS staff to get further small business services, advocating for him to get support he needed for the business, such as a small business consultant he could work with to help him prioritize his business focus and to market the business. Eventually, client was able to access county waiver dollars for a small business consultant who helped him narrow down his business plan, market it and track his income and expenses for the business. VRS also ended up providing funding for some of the items he needed for the small business.

An African-American man with mental illness and back pain applied for vocational rehabilitation services with VRS to pursue a career, being an insurance adjuster, that he could do with his disabilities. He was found eligible for services, assigned to a VR counselor and developed a written employment plan, but the on-line training he needed to complete stalled when his counselor could not figure out how to deliver the funding for the training. The client called MDLC and staff investigated and evaluated his case, recommending that he ask to work with a different VR counselor and that he meet with the new counselor, with advocacy assistance from CAP, to move forward with the employment plan and solve the funding problem. CAP staff requested a new counselor on the client's behalf, and then arranged a meeting for the client to meet the new counselor and talk about moving forward. At the meeting, the client explained what he needed and within a few days, the funding was arranged for him to pursue the on-line vocational training he needed.

A young woman living in outstate Northern Minnesota called MDLC, unhappy with the vocational rehabilitation services she had been receiving from VRS and unable to communicate effectively with her VR counselor, to the extent that she refused to meet with VRS again without an advocate present. CAP staff met with the client at her home to investigate and discuss the case. CAP staff agreed to meet with the woman and her VR service providers and advocate on her behalf. At a subsequent meeting, the woman spoke to her VR counselor and her job placement specialist about what employment interested her, including a local newspaper and Walmart. After the meeting, CAP staff helped the woman find out if those businesses were hiring and got job applications. Although the newspaper did not have any openings, Walmart did, and CAP staff was successful in getting the job placement specialist to help the client fill out the application. The woman was hired at Walmart, which is within walking distance from her home. She continues to work there.

A transition-aged student had recently been ordered released from a regional treatment center. As a 16-year-old with development disabilities and a traumatic brain injury, the young man had been placed on the unit at the treatment center with the most severe cases. His 40 minutes of educational services a day were spent filling out a worksheet. He was ordered to be placed in a group home and provided with educational services. The State Ombudsman was involved in the case and suggested inviting an advocate from MDLC to help determine appropriate educational and VR transition services. A CAP advocate, after ensuring that the student’s guardian was on board, joined the team. The CAP advocate investigated the situation and reached out to a local community services provider with expertise in developmental and behavioral disabilities. That provider had the expertise, cultural understanding, and connections to help the student learn and succeed. School funds were approved to hire the community provider to be a teacher and mentor for the student. They started with the development of basic social skills, such as learning out to greet and introduce people, to negotiate with others, and to control his own emotions and behaviors. The community provider next reached out to a hair salon, and the student got job experience there meeting every client, offering them water, and sweeping up after every haircut. He also helped with laundry and window washing. The student has been very successful at the hair salon; everyone there knows him, and other salons have started to request his services. CAP staff has continued to work with the student to ensure that he receives the transition services he needs as he ages out of the educational system.

A woman with depression, ADHD and executive processing disorder called CAP for assistance. She was a former stay-at-home parent of a child with disabilities who was trying to re-enter the workforce after more than twenty years in order to be able to financially support herself. Her employment goal was to become an acupuncturist, but progress had slowed despite years of vocational rehabilitation services from VRS. CAP staff investigated the case and learned that VRS had provided funding for the cost of the woman’s acupuncture program and studying for her board exams, but client was stuck - she was not applying for jobs or moving forward with opening her own practice. CAP staff then successfully negotiated with VRS to approve an internship to help the woman get hands-on practice providing acupuncture treatments again, boost her confidence and learn more about how to run an acupuncture clinic. CAP staff also advised the client on the VRS process of helping client start her own business if that was what she decided was best for her.

A man living in the Twin Cities east suburban area was deaf and had mental health issues. He had been a VRS consumer for many years, off and on, and was interested in computer programming or a job doing data input. He had worked with several VR counselors at VRS and a succession of job placement specialists, to no avail, and was very unhappy with how slowly everything seemed to be moving. He called CAP for assistance. CAP staff, who had advocated for this client previously, investigated the situation and agreed to be involved in all of his communications with VRS. CAP staff also advocated on the client’s behalf at several meetings with VRS, but VRS closed his case believing they could not successfully provide further VR services. CAP staff then recommended mediation to the client and represented him through the mediation, which due to the COVID-19 pandemic was done by video conference with interpreters. At mediation, the parties agreed that the client would seek mental health counseling to help him overcome barriers to VR service provision and employment. The mental health counseling has now started and the man now has a way to access further VR services so that he can pursue employment in the community.
Certification
Approved
Dan Stewart
Legal Director
2020-12-30
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