As the masks come off and the pandemic is winding down, there are people in our communities who are not experiencing the same level of normalcy that most of us are. I’m speaking of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
So many of us go to work, do our activities, shop and even take vacations, but dozens of people with disabilities in the Eden Prairie area spend the bulk of their time sitting at home. That’s not a healthy lifestyle, mentally or physically.
The main reason for this waiting list is that day service and employment programs like CHOICE have been unable to hire enough staff to serve them. A statewide survey by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) found 3,500 people with disabilities on these lists, waiting, hoping they too can return to the normal life they lived before things changed two years ago.
The wages we can pay, which are limited by the state through out-of-date reimbursement rates, are just too low to attract employees in this market. We also took a hit through the pandemic as our services were held back in efforts to keep people safe. A number of staff who were laid off during that time have not come back.
Support from our legislators is needed now for short- and long-term solutions. Thankfully, there are bills in the works and the Capitol, and we urge people to support them by visiting mohrmn.org.
Editor’s Note: Located in Eden Prairie, CHOICE, Inc., is an organization of personal growth and development for people with intellectual disabilities.
Michael Kraines, executive director, CHOICE, Inc.