Monthly Archives: March 2015

Comments Off on Minnesota Department of Health is Awarded an Autism Grant from HRSA




Alright – so, Minnesota Department of Health has been awarded an autism grant from Health Resources & Services Administration. HRSA has denied this particular grant before at least once – maybe twice to MDH. What changed in HRSA’s mind – you ask. Well – MDH finally put equity and sharing the resources with minority autism community based agencies in their application.

Back two years or so ago, I asked MDH to apply for this grant which is funded under the Combat Autism Act or its new name Autism Cares Act in Congress. This Act funds millions of dollars in autism research, resources,professinal training, services and family training and advocacy just to name a few. Initially MDH wanted to send their usual application where they say – we care about equity, we understand and will DO something about it. MDH wanted the Minnesota Autism Task Force to give them a letter of support and as a member of that committee – I asked that MDH put on the application in writing how exactly they intended to do the minority autism outreach and how much of the funding would go to actual minority operated autism agencies.

Well – to say that created a problem is an understatement. MDH had no desire to put that in writing and I had no desire to sign my name into the Task Force support letter. Then came the chair of the task force back then who I personally like, but had no idea who HRSA was, what the grant was for and the sad statistic for racial autism disparity. The chair just wanted everyone to sign this letter and I stood my ground and refused. I also managed to convince all four state agency commissioners that were members of the task force to agree with me in that reducing racial health disparity is not just about talking, but about sharing resources as well as changing policy and culture. For some reason, I was also able to convince the Governor’s office of this idea. And, since all commissioners work for the governor including MDH – the health policy adviser from Gov Dayton’s office called MDH and asked them to include my language in their application.

The task force chair quit, but really no love lost there because if you are not for equity then you are for inequity and that is what creates double standard and health inequity.

The good news is now our state has been awarded this grant in company of short list of states that have such grant from the Federal government. The other good news is now MDH will HAVE to share the resources and funding with minority based/operated autism agencies that can do outreach and education for autism.

In the end, equity prevailed and poor and minority children with autism won which is what we all should want.  When we share the resources and opportunities with everyone – the haves and the have-nots – everyone wins and succeeds.

Below is the explanation I got from MDH about this grant and the process for it. If you are a rural or minority based/operated autism organization – please contact MDH’s child and maternal health department to apply for this grant and/or participate in this process.

The grant goals are to:

1) Establish community teams (delegates) from three diverse communities (Somali, Hmong, Latino) to provide outreach and resources to families. We will have contracts in place for multiple people in each community to provide the outreach. The teams will get training on the signs and symptoms of ASD as well as key resources that families may need based on input from community representatives.

2)  Create a resource directory that is specific to regions of MN. ICI is working on a resource directory that will identify and catalog information and resources that can be translated and eventually put up on a website (TBD).

3)  Train health care providers who work with different populations around developmental screening, ASD screening and cultural issues to consider during well child care.

4) Creating an evaluation plan to monitor progress made in the grant outcomes and data points in partnership with the departments of education, human services, and DEED. 

All the above activities are done in partnership with the other state agencies as well as with people from culturally diverse communities who have children with autism.

While I might have been the vocal voice – I was always surrounded by strong people who supported our cause. Therefore, I wholeheartedly thank Edward McDonald – Director of Council on Black Minnesotans, Mohamed Mohamud – Director of Somali American Parent Association, as well as commissioners of DHS, MDE and DEED.

Above words do not represent any agency, committee or candidate

Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate


Category: Autism Policy

Comments Off on MDH’s Center for Equity = Equals More Inequity and Racial Health Disparity

Alright – so, have you ever heard when someone says born again blah or an artist tries to change their name or image to sell their new products. Well – Minnesota Department of Health, you know the state agency that has failed minority health for years and decades is trying to re-invent itself with a new name division.

MDH had office of minority health which has not really decreased racial health disparity in Minnesota. In fact, racial health disparity has increased despite millions of dollars into Minnesota health department’s eliminating health disparities initiatives. So, now MDH wants more millions for their new and “improved” Center for Equity. They have eliminated office of minority health. Imagine if they actually “eliminated” racial health disparity.

No, that is not their plan. Their goal especially under Governor Dayton and Commissioner Ehlinger is let’s just go back to the state legislature and explain our brand new idea of creating or renaming office of minority health and while we are there – let’s just ask a staggering ten million dollars. Oh, and this time – we will say and use a lot of jargons like equity matters, minorities should be at the decision making table and my favorite we “talked” to many minority communities to get their input. And, we will even put in our useless report that came out over a year ago that the reason for Minnesota’s horrible racial disparity is because of “institutional racism”.  Sound all good, right – the devil is always in the details.

MDH Commissioner Ehlinger (who is up Monday for senate confirmation without anyone asking his failed policies) but is a very nice person and probably cares went to the state legislature along with the new butt kissers, and testified their hearts out more like begged for millions of dollars for their Center for Equity division which has about 14 people. The director is a Native American, they also have African American specialist and staff, Asian staff, zero Somali staff and some Caucasians. My humble little opinion – why do they need Caucasian staff in Center for equity anyway – don’t they already hog other departments like the child and maternal health that has over 117 staff and less than 1 percent are Blacks, zero Somali as a permanent staff and zero person of color in a leadership position. Yet, children and women are the ones facing the most racial health disparity. Think about that. If MDH really cared – they would’ve hired diverse staff in positions of influence, but they don’t because if they did they would’ve have hired a diverse person in their legislative office which has two and both are Caucasian. They even had a Somali intern last year and guess what they told her instead of hiring her….wait for it….drum roll please “nothing available now”. That is their usual line to our community – not hiring now, not a good fit, we will call you, don’t call us. You get my drift here.

On the other hand, similar Caucasian interns like Dayton’s current health policy adviser can move on up. This kind of deliberate hiring is called White privilege and happens in Minnesota more than any other state. Hence, the high gap between Whites and people of color in every category.

The icing on the cake is when MDH hired their new deputy commissioner Mr. Pollock. I think he is the poster picture for White privilege. Mr. Pollock has been given opportunities that minorities don’t even dream of from DLF house leadership to DHS to Gov Dayton’s office to MDH now. He is also the perfect example of a smiling and un-emotional liberal that creates disparity policies in a subtle and friendly manner. Pollock is the reason the MN autism task force got Rep Norton – you know the queen of autism disparity, he is the reason – the house tried couple of years ago under Rep Huntley to pass an autism legislation that said low income and minority kids get autism therapy up to age seven and wealthier and more Caucasian autism families get autism therapy unlimited in age and in coverage. He is the reason that back in 2010 DFL house in Huntley’s committee voted to help only wealthier and more Caucasian autism families with private insurance while they told Medicaid autism families – kiss the air and nothing for you. There is more, but I am getting a headache thinking about the obstacles and arrogantly bias autism policies Pollock has tried to inflict us with. The good thing is we defeated him in all of those bias legislations, but as a MDH deputy commissioner, things will get worse for minority health.

And, now this guy is number two in charge of our health department, Are you bleeping kidding me. You see Minnesota department of health has zero desire to address or change any racial health disparity. Heck, they create it and maintain it. Their sole goal is to keep asking for more money and produce no results.

In sum, giving any funds to Minnesota department of health’s newly created division – Center for Equity is like milking a camel in the sand. It is worthless, un-necessary and will for sure not decrease any racial health disparity at all. All they have done is fire the last two previous directors from office of minority health a Hispanic one and the African American one before him. Now they have another minority director who in time will be fired too after the funding is all gone and wasted.

Sadly, no one in state legislature including the few minorities we have ever ask them any good questions or deny them funding because insanity is giving more money to MDH and expecting different outcome.

Even more sad is our communities of color have no idea how the legislative process works and how our votes are connected. We don’t bargain with our voices and our votes. We don’t ask what the heck they did when we last voted for them and if there is no improvement – we don’t tell policy makers that have for years and even decades failed our communities to take a flying leap. Therefore, it is truly our fault, albeit – due to lack of understanding of the process, but still our fault.

So, what happens now. Well, Gov Dayton has nothing to lose because he already got the minority votes last year and said he is not running again. His Lt. Governor Heartless Hammer Smith could care less and never has even though she will probably run that is unless and more likely Dayton steps down and hands her the veto pen. I think the area (that is if minority communities had lobbyist or advocates) we can make a dent is the House and the Senate who are both up for election next year. In reality, no one in our minority community will ever testify against this worthless division at MDH. Well – I suppose I could, but really I rather not have that headache since this is not solely for autism.

I guess my question to minorities in Minnesota is – why don’t we have lobbyist and advocates at the state legislature. This is where the meat of the bone is in all things good and bad and we are still in la la land.

As usual, above words do not reflect any agency, candidate or committee.

Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate