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Access Press - Minnesota's Disability Community Newspaper

Regional News in Review – November 2017

by // November 10th, 2017

Intermedia Arts to sell building

Intermedia Arts now plans to move ahead with the sale of its landmark building in Uptown Minneapolis, after laying off all its staff in September. The sale marks the end of an era for the region’s arts community, including artists with disabilities.

The graffiti art-covered building has hosted gallery shows, festivals, theater and dance productions, and classes and workshops.

The non-profit arts organization’s co-president, Omar Akbar sent out an announcement stating that a sale is the only way to meet Intermedia Arts financial obligations. Staff was paid through September.

“Beyond payroll, Intermedia has additional outstanding obligations that leave us with no choice other than to move forward with the sale of our building,” Akbar stated. “We understand the magnitude of this decision and are committed to a process that mirrors the mission of Intermedia.”

Intermedia Arts has indicated it will continue its programming, with announcements coming soon. The nonprofit’s financial crisis has roiled the Twin Cities arts world. Founded by University of Minnesota students in 1973 as University Community Video, it became Intermedia Arts in the 1980s. A former auto shop building was purchased in 1994. Intermedia Arts weathered at least one other financial crisis in 2008, temporarily closing galleries, laying off staff and renting  out space. (Source: Intermedia Arts, Southwest Journal)

 

Senior care operator steps away

An operator of housing for Minnesota elders has forfeited state licenses to provide care at three of its facilities. The move came after state inspectors for repeated incidents of serious harm to residents at Minnesota Heritage House of Little Falls’ facilities in Adrian, Kimball and Pequot Lakes. Three of the company’s facilities will remain open.

Residents are still allowed to live at the facilities so as not to disrupt their lives. But a different operator has taken charge and the state will provide additional monitoring. The Minnesota Department of Health said Heritage House demonstrated a recurring pattern of violations that were detrimental to the health of its clients. Since late 2015 Heritage House has had more than 80 new and repeat orders to correct violations. Some violations resulted in serious injury, impairment or deaths of residents. Record-keeping was also a concern.

The agreement with the state to give up licenses was reached after more serious sanctions were considered, including revocation and immediate suspension of licenses. Heritage House will not be allowed to admit new residents until clients are transferred to a new provider. The owner is also prohibited from seeking new home care licenses for five years. (Source: Star Tribune)

 

She records to save her voice

Karen Stubenvoll is at sentence 1,214. “I know that’s real fun,” she reads into a headset in a clear, steady voice. The retired Duluth area doctor is well on her way toward the 1,600 sentences she ultimately will have read to develop a synthetic version of her own voice. Stubenvoll, 59, was diagnosed a year ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive disorder affecting the nerves and muscles. It afflicts about 20,000 Americans at any given time, according to the ALS Association.

After she was diagnosed, Stubenvoll retired as a hospitalist for Essentia Health and resigned as chairwoman of the board of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. She remains an enthusiast of the nature site and still manages some hiking, using trekking poles to support herself. She has had to give up bicycling, and traveling has become much more difficult.

Stubenvoll still has her voice but she is preparing for dysarthria, a slurring of speech. Speaking is already tiring, and she can foresee it getting more difficult.

When she learned the Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the University of Minnesota Duluth offers what’s known as voice banking, she couldn’t see a downside, Stubenvoll said. Since she lives in Duluth, she could easily get to the clinic. And the ALS Association currently is underwriting the cost.

Stubenvoll is the fifth client to use voice banking at the clinic, which is in the old Chester Park school on the UMD campus. Hyppa Martin, an assistant professor in UMD’s Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders, began offering the service last spring.

When it’s all finished, Hyppa Martin will send the recording to the Nemours Speech Research Laboratory at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware, the developer of what it calls a ModelTalker System. Then a rough version of a synthetic voice for Stubenvoll will come back to the clinic. She and Hyppa Martin will listen to it and decide on the refinements they wish to make, and then send it back to Delaware. A final version will come back, and Stubenvoll’s synthetic voice will be loaded into an iPad. (Source: Duluth News Tribune)

 

Fewer students in special education

Six years into a wide-ranging equity initiative, St. Paul Public Schools has placed fewer students in special education programs. The change reflects a concern raised in 2011 that too many children, especially children of color, were being identified for specialized services. That past approach met mixed reviews, winning praise from the state but complaints that it led to an increase in student misbehavior.

The state Education Department praised the district’s co-teaching model, in which general-education and special- education teachers share a classroom, and its attempts at using different instructional tactics in lieu of formal individualized education plans.

Each of the last seven years, the district’s special education enrollment has declined, to 15.3 percent this fall from 18.6 percent in 2010. The statewide average is 15.1 percent. Had St. Paul’s rate not changed, more than 1,000 additional students would now be on individualized education plans.

“It was very purposeful,” said Gail Ghere, the district’s interim director of specialized services. “It’s a significant issue to put a disability label on a child.”

In 2012, St. Paul closed most of its special education learning centers and moved students into mainstream classrooms. A focus on more help for English language learners was added.

Although the state and school district see St. Paul’s special education trends in a positive light, some parents have complained that it’s too difficult to obtain specialized services in the district. In a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year, a mother alleges, in part, that the district waited eight months before assessing her English-learning child for an IEP. In 2014, the district settled a federal civil rights complaint related to L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion, where school leaders allegedly refused to assess children for disabilities or to abide by their IEPs. (Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press)

 

Accessible housing among projects

Minnesota Housing Commissioner Mary Tingerthal and other community leaders in October announced funding to create and preserve more than 1,800 affordable housing opportunities throughout the state. The investments in 60 developments support more than 3,400 jobs and will leverage additional private and local resources that will result in nearly $350 million in total development costs.

Accessible housing is included in several of the projects, with a doubling of the number of accessible housing units to be created.

“This funding will stimulate jobs and economic development across our state, while providing housing for Minnesotans in need,” said Gov. Mark Dayton. “I thank Minnesota Housing for their work in securing these new investments, and putting these funds to good use in our communities. I look forward to working with the legislature to make additional investments next session.”

“As we hear more every day about the rising rents, the loss of low-cost rental units and the shortage of lower cost single-family homes, we know that more people are having trouble finding a place they can afford to live,” said Tingerthal. “These investments will make an important difference in communities across the state.”

Each of the 60 projects announced today was selected through one common application process with Minnesota Housing and its funding partners the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, and the Metropolitan Council.

“As Minnesota prospers, every region of the state has a growing demand for more workforce housing that is affordable, and at the same time there is a persistent need for more supportive housing for homeless families,” said Warren Hanson, President & CEO of Greater Minnesota Housing Fund. “To address these urgent needs, we are proud to partner with Minnesota Housing to fund these developments, each of which will provide stable homes and a foundation for better health and educational outcomes.”

These awards include more than $25 million in state appropriations and $42 million in funding from housing infrastructure bonds that were part of the 2017 state capital investment bill, and $4.5 million from funding partners.

Minnesota Housing will invest more than $1 billion this year as outlined in its annual Affordable Housing Plan. Read about all the projects at mnhousing.gov (Source: Minnesota Housing Finance Agency)

 

 

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