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Work conditions of human services employees gets House attention

By Tory Cooney

The House passed a bill, as amended, Friday that would make technical changes and clarifications to a wide range of human services statutes by a 130-0 vote.

Rep. Dave Baker

Policy provisions addressed in HF696/ SF359*, sponsored by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) and Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids), would include child and adult foster care background studies and planning and case management requirements for home and community-based waivers. The changes are intended to address workforce shortages and employee retention, Baker said.

The bill was amended to exclude additional language in the Senate bill regarding natural supports and volunteers. It now goes back to the Senate, where it was passed 63-0 May 11.

A list of the rights of people with disabilities and seniors receiving home and community services would be also modified to include:

  • their rights to use the lock on their bedroom doors;
  • access to their personal possessions at any time, including money;
  • ability to come and go at will;
  • choosing which visitors to receive and when;
  • accessing food and water at any time;
  • furnishing their bedrooms or living units; and
  • being free from hazards that threaten their health or safety, in a clean setting.

Initial service planning for home and community-based services would be required to include a discussion about how technology could be used to meet a person’s desired goals and people in community residential settings would also be required have a choice of roommate.

Individualized home supports would also be added to the list of services available to people on the state’s home and community-based wavier programs.

Rep. Jack Considine Jr. (DFL-Mankato) said that although the bill contained some valuable policy provisions and was “a step in the right direction,” it fails to address the low wages of home health aides. 

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