ARRM honored Senator Kent Eken (04) with its 2015 Leadership Award on Thursday, September 24, 2015. The ceremony took place during the ARRM Leadership Conference in Deerwood, Minnesota and recognized Senator Eken for his ongoing dedication to supporting people with disabilities across the state.
The award was founded over a decade ago to recognize innovative leaders whose advocacy has significantly impacted Minnesotans with disabilities. Recent recipients include Steve Larson of Arc Minnesota, Senator John Hoffman and Representative Jim Abeler.
ARRM CEO Bruce Nelson presented the award and commended Senator Eken for his strategic legislative efforts including rate reform and authorship of The 5% Campaign’s senate bills in 2014 and 2015. Sen. Eken's strong advocacy was instrumental in securing a five percent rate increase for Home and Community-Based Services in 2014; these essential services support more than 90,000 people with disabilities and older adults in Minnesota. The bill helped address a crisis, with the bulk of the funds going to underpaid direct care workers.
In his acceptance speech to over 220 disability service leaders Senator Eken shared, “I got involved in politics to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Strong unity is so vital to our success.”
He urged disability providers in attendance to continue advocating for needed reform and funding by telling their personal stories to legislators and Governor Dayton during the 2016 session. He also emphasized the importance of engaging family members in grassroots efforts. “A lot of people don't realize the severity of the workforce crisis we are in,” he noted. “Surpluses give us the opportunity to make up for cuts to Home and Community-Based service in the past.”
--Amy Wartick, Communications Director