Personal Care Assistance cuts leave many disabled people without help

By Sue Abderholden
Contributing Writier

In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature made significant changes to the Personal Care Assistance (PCA) program in order to save money. An estimated 3,000 children and adults who use the program will no longer be eligible for the program as of July 2011.

The PCA program aids people with disabilities or chronic illnesses who need help with dressing, grooming, bathing, positioning, transferring, mobility, eating or toileting. These are called “activities of daily living.”

The program also aids those who have difficult behaviors, such as physical aggression towards self or others or destroying property, that require an immediate response of another person. These are called “Level 1 behaviors.”

There are four groups of people who will lose their PCA services. Nearly 1,000 people have already lost their services because they do not need help with any activities of daily living nor do they have Level 1 behaviors. Come July 2011, there are three additional groups of people who will lose their services:

• People who only have serious behavior issues, a “Level 1” behavior

• People who need help with only one activity of daily living and do not have a Level 1 behavior

• People who need help with only one activity of daily living and have a Level 1 behavior

Of those who only have a Level 1 behavior, 77 percent are under the age of 22 and 41 percent are people of color. These are largely children and adolescents who have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, or a general emotional disturbance.

For those who only have only one activity of daily living that they need help with, 66 percent are people of color and 61 percent are female. Most are between the ages of 23 to 64 and many have immune disorders, arthritis, lupus and/or diabetes.

For those who have a Level 1 behavior and need help with one activity of daily living, 73 percent are under the age of 22 and 47 percent are people of color with 14 percent receiving adoption assistance. These are children who primarily have attention-deficit disorder (ADD), mood disorders, autism, or a developmental delay.

NAMI Minnesota is very concerned that these cuts will disproportionately impact children of color and their families. Reassessments are now taking place, so families should learn soon if their child or family member will no longer be eligible for PCA services.

Additionally, the legislature also directed the Minnesota Department of Human Services to develop alternative services for those who will lose their PCA services. The department is currently meeting with organizations about what those alternatives could look like.

NAMI-MN wants to make sure that your voice is heard and that your ideas and needs are received by the department. We want to know if you will be losing your services and the impact that this will have on your family.

We also want to know how you have used PCA services and whether you have ideas about alternatives that would work as well or better for your needs.

Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota. Contact them at 651-645-2948 ext. 105 if you will be impacted by these changes to the PCA program.