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Minn. families make plea to restore funds for caregivers

Robert Enos, right, is a caregiver for his brother Michael Enos in their home in Willmar. They are shown here in a 2010 file photo. Robert Enos has written a letter to lawmakers in hopes that the compensation he receives from the state for providing care won't be cut. (Tribune file photo by Carolyn Lange)

WILLMAR -- Rural Minnesotans who serve as personal care attendants for disabled family members are pleading with legislators to restore full funding for the program.

A budget conference committee is debating the issue this week.

Not knowing what the final action will be is putting families in "limbo," said Steve Larson, public policy director for The Arc Minnesota, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities. "No one knows what's going to happen."

Last year, as part of the state budget-cutting process, legislators said that people who serve as personal care attendants for a family member with disabilities would see a 20 percent reduction in pay.

Pay for non-family members that provide care was not cut.

A judge initially delayed implementation of the pay cut but said last month the reductions could take place.

With newfound money that HMOs had to pay the state for making excessive profits, Larson said Gov. Mark Dayton proposed using some of the money to restore cuts to health care services, such as the payments to family-provided personal care attendant services.

Bob Enos, of Willmar, wrote letters this week to the 10 members on the conference committee in hopes that the compensation he receives from the state for providing care for his brother, Michael, won't be cut.

"The cuts to personal care attendants who choose to take care of their family members are very threatening. Please don't hold us hostage for loving them," wrote Enos.

The typical compensation is about $8 to $10 an hour for personal care attendants, according to the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. A 20 percent reduction could make it difficult for families to pay for such things as mortgages that helps keep disabled individuals and elderly family members at home.

"Surely you know, we'll do whatever we have to do to take care of our loved ones, regardless of what you decide on this issue, said Enos is his letter to legislators. "Please don't punish us for it."

Michael Enos has a rare genetic disease called tuberous sclerosis complex, which has left him developmentally delayed, paralyzed on one side and epileptic, according to Bob Enos who said he walked away from a career in financial services 14 years ago in order to prevent his brother from "becoming the responsibility of the state, upon the early death of our mother, Joselyn."

As part of health care reform targeted at rural Minnesota, where it's difficult to find enough personal care attendants, the Legislature agreed to pay family members to provide care that kept their loved ones at home.

Doing that was much cheaper than paying for care in group homes or nursing homes, said Larson.

Cutting pay for those family members -- including those who left jobs to provide full-time care -- could force them to make tough choices that would end up costing the state and local communities more, said Larson.

Bob Enos said he loves his brother and loves providing a good quality of life for him.

"We are fortunate to have the help of the state of Minnesota to keep our family together; healthy, safe, and well cared for," he said in his letter. "It has taken a toll on our family. We live very carefully within our means."

In an interview, Enos said taking a 20 percent cut in pay "holds me hostage because I love my brother."


Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750