A priority of mine in the legislature is helping organizations in our state that provide support and services to disabled Minnesotans, and I am pleased that we are continuing work we began last session to assist these special people.

Last year, I worked closely with Rep. Gene Pelowski and Home and Community Options (HCO) in Winona to adopt Region 10 Quality Assurance, which will help organizations like HCO offer better care to their clients along with long-term savings.

HCO has done a stellar job of advocating for the disabled and engaging with legislators and the Department of Human Services to update and modernize their care and treatment.

I also helped secure funding for the Extended Employment Program, which provides work opportunities for people with disabilities.

This is helping organizations like Winona ORC and others provide employment services and training to people with disabilities.

This session, we enacted some reforms that will have a positive impact on adult foster care homes, which provide round-the-clock personal care and supervision for the developmentally disabled, mentally ill and physically handicapped as well as for some elderly who do not need continuous nursing care.

Reforms that were included in an Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill, which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by the governor last week, will make a significant difference in the lives of residents of foster care homes and to their caregivers, and make more efficient use of limited funds.

New technology can now be used to monitor residents and replace some overnight staff. Homes can add a fifth bed, with the consent of other residents, for more efficient use of resources.

The new law also permits individuals receiving services to comprise 25 percent of residents of multi-family buildings. Other provisions in the law will streamline administrative tasks required of providers.

An important provision of the new law asks the State Quality Council to recommend to the 2013 legislature methods for balancing health, welfare and safety with optimizing life choices for Minnesotans with different abilities and limitations.

Organizations like HCO and ORC and others like ABLE in Houston County and DACs in Winona and Fillmore County are dedicated to helping people with disabilities achieve a satisfying and productive life and to make meaningful contributions to the communities in which they live.

It has been an honor to be part of this work in the State Senate. If you have comments or questions on this or any other issues, please feel free to get in touch at any time.

Send an email to sen.jeremy.miller@senate.mn or call (651) 296-5649.