First of all, please remember Aitkin County Sheriff's Department Investigator Steven Sandberg's family in your prayers, as he is laid to rest today.
As I mentioned in my last update, administrators, staff and residents from four area nursing homes – Good Samaritan in Brainerd, CRMC in Crosby and Aicota and Aitkin Health Services in Aitkin – provided very valuable input to Minnesota House members during visits on Wednesday.
Minnesota House Aging and Long Term Care Policy Chairman Rep. Joe Schomacker of Luverne, Rep. Josh Heintzeman of Nisswa and I participated in a day-long tour to discuss issues on how we can continue to improve care for our seniors.
Each of the nursing homes provides wonderfully unique services. It was enlightening to see how each meets their common goal of providing the very highest standard of care for our seniors. We discussed a lot of issues and two that came up at all four facilities were a long-standing shortage in funding and challenges in attracting staff.
Legislation passed this year moves us in the right direction with increased funding. About $150 million in new revenue will be allocated to nursing homes beginning Jan. 1, 2016. Our discussions included gaining feedback on how they plan to put these new resources to use. At the top of the list was investing in their staff through increased wages, benefits and career development.
There is a pressing need now and in the future for health care professionals. The huge wave of Baby Boomers is now reaching retirement age is a real double-whammy. Not only are we losing a lot of very experienced health care professionals due to retirements, those same folks in the years to come will eventually be transitioning into the very facilities they once worked at. That will result in an even greater demand for health care professionals in the future.
One potential method discussed for expanding the pool of qualified workers is to find more ways for our two-year state colleges to prepare young workers for these jobs and ensuring our high schools provide information on the wonderful career opportunities in this field. Jobs are available right now.
I want to again extend my thanks to the staff and residents in Aitkin, Brainerd and Crosby who took the time to meet and talk with us on this important matter. Click here for coverage in the Brainerd Dispatch.
A quick note on Minnesota's Cold Weather Rule which went into effect Oct. 15 and is in place until April 15, helping help families struggling to make energy payments keep their heat on during the winter.
Utilities are required to issue a notice of disconnection and provide payment plan options to stop a disconnection if a family falls behind on payments. Customers can still have their heat disconnected if a payment plan agreement cannot be reached once the required process, including any appeals, has taken place. Utility companies also can help people take advantage of resources such as local energy assistance programs.
Other resources including Energy Assistance, the Gas Affordability Program, and the Low Income Electric Rate Discount Program are available. More details can be found on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission website.