The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides Minnesotans with a variety of services intended to help people live as independently as possible.
Scott Strohman had a word of advice for Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson when she visited his workplace Friday, March 8.
“Don’t be afraid to take chances, because if you don’t, you’ll never know what the end result could be,” he said, encouraging her to continue pushing for proposals in Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget that support employment for Minnesotans with disabilities.
The governor’s Reform 2020 budget package invests close to $400,000 in the next biennium to help young Minnesotans age 18-26 with disabilities maintain employment, and is projected to save the state more than $500,000 in the following budget cycle. Through the proposal, navigators employed by community organizations will help participants with job issues, benefits planning, including health insurance benefits, and integration of other services they receive.
Strohman took his own leap of faith a dozen years ago when he started a new job through Lifeworks Services, which provides employment opportunities and services for individuals with disabilities in the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Mankato areas. Strohman now has a near-spotless attendance record as a mailroom messenger at Securian Financial Group’s downtown St. Paul headquarters and also lives on his own.
“Lifeworks has made a huge difference,” said Strohman. “I’m able to live downtown. I’m able to get to work through the skyway. I keep myself pretty independent but I have help when I need it.”
Jesson met with Lifeworks clients, employees and Securian staff to hear stories like Strohman’s, which she said will help as she seeks funding and federal approval to allow the state to try new ways to deliver the services seniors and people with disabilities need to lead fulfilling lives.
“We want to provide people with disabilities, especially people at the age where they’re entering the workforce, every opportunity for employment,” said Jesson. “This is good for individuals and good for taxpayers, as research shows that when people are working and more fully integrated into the community their assistance needs decrease.”
The demonstration project will serve up to 7,600 participants over five years, helping potentially delay or prevent the need for thousands to enroll in disability services.
“Employment makes such a big difference in a person’s life,” said Judy Lysne, president and CEO of Lifeworks Services. “They can live in their own home, have their own friends – have a life. We are so lucky to work with so many great companies that recognize the potential of our clients and the benefit they bring to their business and the community.”