MCIL Executive Director Jesse Bethke Gomez to participate in White House Convening
March 1 meeting is themed “Communities in Action: Building a Better Minnesota”
February 24, 2023, ST. PAUL, Minn.: Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) Executive Director, Jesse Bethke Gomez, MMA, has been invited to participate in a White House Convening, Communities in Action: Building a Better Minnesota at The White House on March 1, 2023. The event brings together leaders who are working on community-building efforts to find innovative, long-term solutions that address crucial issues facing communities to create opportunities and improve people’s everyday lives.
Bethke Gomez is attending the Convening at the recommendation of Administration on Disabilities Commissioner Jill Jacobs of the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
MCIL has a well-earned reputation as a catalyst for tackling pressing issues impacting the disability community. The White House Convening provides an extraordinary opportunity for Bethke Gomez to share ways MCIL consistently brings together civic leaders, nonprofit organizations, academic innovators, community advocates, and others in pursuit of its mission of Removing Barriers, Promoting Choices in assisting people with disabilities in the Twin Cities seven-county metro area. With more than 240 employees, PCAs, and a wide range of services, programs, resources, and partnerships, it is among the largest Centers for Independent Living in Minnesota.
“It is an immense honor to be invited to participate in this important forum,” said MCIL Board Chair Beth Fondell. “MCIL and our partners have been working tirelessly to address the critical needs facing the constituency we serve. Being asked to share our insights, ideas, and efforts at this prestigious convening of leaders from across the country is tremendously rewarding. We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this significant event.”
MCIL is currently working to bring sustainable, scalable solutions to address the expanding crisis within the PCA workforce. As our nation experiences the highest level of unfilled PCA positions in 40 years, and millions of Americans rely on PCAs as part of our overall nation’s healthcare platform, MCIL is leading the charge for meaningful change.
With a generous Community Innovation Grant from the Bush Foundation, and under Bethke Gomez’s leadership, MCIL brought together a team of four Minnesota State faculty and Valerie DeFor, Executive Director of Minnesota State HealthForce Center of Excellence, to develop a curriculum for a certificate program leading to the credential of a Certified PCA as a third voluntary tier in Minnesota’s PCA program. The program focuses on assessing a credit-based education leading to improved pay or career advancement and providing tiered credential options and career ladders for direct care and support professionals, and links to a PCA rate framework for an increased wage differential, based upon competitive workforce factors.
Most recently, MCIL initiated the "Pre-Launch" phase of a PCA College Service Corps pilot program. Diane Drost, a Minnesota disability advocate, along with Barbara Mace and Women Staying Strong, pushed for the need for a PCA College Service Corps for many years. Working with MCIL and HealthForce Minnesota, their collective efforts resulted in a grant to MCIL from The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation Fund at the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. The pilot is managed by MCIL with input from the MCIL PCA College Service Corps Advisory Committee which includes individuals with the University of Minnesota; Minnesota State HealthForce Center of Excellence, Women Staying Strong; GUSU; and the Disability Services Division of the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The program is based on the AmeriCorps model and promises to transform the Direct Care Service industry.
The PCA College Service Corps pilot seeks to recruit 50 college students to receive an honorarium when serving as a paid PCA for a minimum of 10 hours per week over 30 weeks. The PCA Service Corps pilot plans to match the college student with an individual who is assessed at receiving 10 or more hours of PCA assistance per day and who direct their own care through Minnesota’s PCA Program, while also providing mentoring to college students during the 30 weeks. The pilot program sets the stage for college students to achieve success, creates a trained workforce ready to address current and future direct care service needs, and instills a renewed affirmation of the importance of service, dedication, and the hallmark of who we are as a civil society, namely, advancing the ability of people to care for one another.
“Thousands of individual’s dignity, civil rights, and fundamental rights are at stake,” stated Jesse Bethke Gomez, MMA, MCIL Executive Director. “Our nation is seeing a devastating decline in the PCA workforce. People with apparent and non-apparent disabilities and older adults are at the forefront of this crisis. Individuals’ needs are going unmet and, in some instances, with life-threatening consequences We are extremely proud to play a part in developing pioneering programs that will create scalable solutions to address the dire need while favorably impacting the lives of those receiving and providing direct care services. Working together, we need to change the arc of history for the better for all so that lives will be changed, and likely saved, today and for many generations in Minnesota and across our Nation.”