Lyle man's state-paid care is restored
LYLE — Four months ago, the world that Lyle resident Randy Krulish knew was upended when he learned that the state was planning to cutback on the hours he receives for personal care attendants.
For Krulish, a quadriplegic since the age of 12 from a diving accident, the decision confronted him with the harrowing prospect of being forced into a nursing home and leaving behind his life of independence for more expensive institutionalized care.
Then last week, Krulish was hit with another thunderbolt of news, but this of a more welcome variety: His hours had been restored. His four-month battle to maintain his level of care was over. He had prevailed.
"I was in shock. I couldn't believe it," said Krulish. "It was terrible to have to live through that. I just can't believe it's over."
It's not exactly clear what caused officials at the Minnesota Department of Human Services to reverse their decision. Krulish had twice filed appeals with the state, both of which had been denied. A department official declined to discuss his case, citing data privacy laws.
Rally of support
His predicament had prompted a number of political and religious leaders to rally around Krulish, a 56-year-old former paraprofessional who cannot feed himself, brush his teeth, use the bathroom or cough without the help of a personal care attendant.
"When you get that kind of support, it allows you to get through one more day," he said.
DFL Austin state legislators, including Sen. Dan Sparks, Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Rep. Robin Brown, had urged the department to reexamine the decision. Two Lyle area churches also got into the act, helping Krulish raise money to challenge the decision in district court.
"There were some unintended consequences with the law that was put into place. We were just looking for a bit more flexibility," Sparks said.
Krulish was also the subject of Austin Post-Bulletin story that highlighted the precarious balance states are attempting to strike in an age of declining revenue while still protecting society's most vulnerable members.
Krulish's reduction in assistance was the result of changes in state law requiring PCA recipients to undergo evaluations using a new assessment, one aimed at reducing corruption and waste in the program. Counties began using the new tool in January.
Those evaluations have resulted in some PCA recipients getting fewer hours, others getting more. Critics say the tool is too inflexible and will lead to more severely disabled people — including quadriplegics such as Krulish — receiving less care.
The state's decision came just as Krulish was preparing to file a legal challenge in district court. At the same time, Krulish's attorney, Paul Mundt, encouraged Mower County to contact state officials about finding a "funding slot" in an alternative program that would pay for Krulish's lost hours.
Krulish had talked with county officials previously about such a possibility but had been told by the county that no such slot was available. This time, a slot — and the money to go with it — was made available by the state.