Alright – so, by now we all know that I am not a big fan of the current commissioner of DHS – Emily Piper. It is not even because she didn’t have any human services experience when she was hired by Lt. Governor Smith – sorry meant Gov. Dayton, it is that she seems aloof and out of touch when it comes to the matters that matter the most to Minnesota’s disability community in particular autism. Yes, I know she visits a lot of places and takes pictures with them. But as the saying goes – you can’t fake compassion. She is no Commissioner Jesson nor Assistant commissioner Jennifer D. These ladies believed in person centered care, one could negotiate with them or even disagree with them in a civil manner.
With Piper – there is no feeling at all from her tone nor her body language. It is like dealing with a brick wall. Now, we all know the commissioner of any agency sets the tone, hires lower staff and leads any agency with their footprints. Under Piper, autism has suffered in so many areas. For example, if you can believe it while DHS held numerous autism meetings for ….wait for it…. providers, they only held one meeting for autism families since EIBDI was approved. Think about that because in theory families should come first but at DHS companies come first. It is as though they are the provider agency rather than human services agency that is supposed to care about people with disabilities, the elderly and the poor. DHS will listen and validate an autism agency first before it listens and validates an autism parent or individual.
I remember under Commissioner Jesson, there were so many autism meetings for parents and families. One of these meetings that comes to mind was held by Ms. Wagner. I think it was somewhere in Mpls where many parents came and shared their children’s background, challenges they faced and their joy. I was watching Ms. Wagner’s body language and facial expression. Not even once, did she say to a parent “your time is up, you only have few minutes to talk, etc.” She listened intensely, let every parent finish and take their own time and she even took notes. Another time, there was a meeting for parents and all stake-holders at DHS about autism, and Commissioner Jesson showed up and stood in the back – just listening. I don’t think many of the public knew who she was, but obviously I did. She then left without bothering anyone or making a fuss she was there. Another time, during another autism meeting, Assistant Commissioner Loren C showed up and told folks that DHS cared about autistic children and their families and will consider all opinions and input. Those were the good old thoughtful days.
Now, all of that is gone under Commissioner Piper and Assistant Commissioner Wilson. Wait, I take that back, Wilson came to one meeting where she basically tried to silence me by reading some crap about “bringing your perspective not your bias”. Let’s put this into perspective. This is the agency that has many current discrimination lawsuits lecturing a black autism mom about brining my perspective not my bias. This is like Bill O’Reilly preaching about respect for women. Come on now. In fact, DHS fired the autism policy lead who was African American that had years of policy experience and hired a Caucasian policy lead that has zero policy experience. Not to mention she lacks any empathy or compassion for autism families. If you watch the body language of the current DHS autism policy lead when she talks – you get a cold just by watching her. She blinks a thousand times per minute and just repeats her script no matter how stressed autism parents are or what they ask her. How nice Commissioner!
So far under Piper leadership, DHS only held one autism meeting for parents and families. In this meeting, they were rude, condescending, defensive, defiant, dismissive, out of touch, arrogant and plain wrong. There were parents who were so overwhelmed with autism, understandably so who were crying, yet DHS had some coordinator that made Idi Amin look welcoming. Not kidding.
So what happens now? Well – as an autism mom and advocate, I always have to look at the glass half-full. The good thing is Piper doesn’t have much time left in her term. There is always complaining and writing to our legislators. There is also CMS, but I would not hold by breath there unless another good person replaced Marilyn T. As autism parents – let’s never give up on our kids, let’s change DHS’ negative reactions and bullying into energy and advocacy that moves our kids forward in a positive manner.
Above words do not reflect any agency, committee or candidate.
Idil – Autism mom and Advocate