Minnesota has a civil rights issue. Thousands of people with disabilities who can’t find quality home care are forced to resort to living with people three times their age. The state of Minnesota is paying for 1,500 people who are under the age of 65 to live in assisted living. This is the case with 25-year-old Korrie Johnson.
“This is no place for someone my age,” Johnson, who has cerebral palsy and limited mobility of her limbs, told the Star Tribune. “I love these people, but I feel like I’m missing out on life every day that I’m stuck here.”
“This is a civil rights issue,” Barnett Rosenfield, supervising attorney for Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center, told the outlet. “We have too many people in our state stuck in nursing homes who don’t want to be there and have no easy way out.”
This shortage is due to underfunding of Minnesota’s personal care assistance program.
The 40-year-old program has seen its reimbursement rates stay stagnant as costs have increased. Despite the amount of work they do, personal care aides in the state can expect to make only $12 to $13 an hour working part time and with limited benefits. As Carla Friese, a Minnesota resident with quadriplegia, reported, “It’s difficult to find quality staff when they can make the same pay flipping burgers at McDonald’s and do a lot less work.”
As of December, there were roughly 8,000 vacant home care jobs across the state. This is the most in 16 years, and also means that 1 in every 6 people who qualify for services are not receiving them.
Another person experiencing difficulty coping with the state’s system is Lauren Thompson. Two years ago, she was a contestant in the state’s “Ms. Wheelchair” pageant who warned of a “catastrophic crisis” that was looming. Now she is one of many Minnesotans living in an assisted living facility. As Thompson herself put it to the Tribune, “I survive here, but I want to do more with my life than just survive.”
As for Korrie Johnson, she holds out hope that she’ll be able to leave the assisted care facility she is in soon. She is currently renting an apartment in a nearby town, which she hopes to live in full time after securing adequate home care. “I can go crazy in my own home,” Johnson said. “Just imagine — I can be my own person again.”