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Friday, January 29, 2016

Southfield nonprofit wins grant to help identify and treat those with Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Michigan has won a three-year, $​800,000​ federal grant to help caregivers identify people with disabilities who develop the degenerative memory condition.
The Southfield nonprofit will work with several other nonprofits with the goal of training some 2,000 caregivers and providers of services to those with disabilities in an effort to “make people (with the dual diagnoses) feel safer and give them a sense of dignity,” said Elizabeth Fritz-Cottle.
She is the development manager at the Alzheimer Association - Greater Michigan chapter who wrote the grant approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The ultimate vision is to make sure that people with developmental disabilities and Alzheimer’s can live in their home safely and with a good quality of life,” she said.
The partners and their constituents, including direct care staff and family members, ​are to be trained with the hope that the curricula and training are absorbed and used within agencies for years to come, Fritz-Cottle said.​
About 11 percent of Americans older than 65 have Alzheimer’s, she said, adding that those affected include 19,000 in Oakland, 14,000 in Macomb and 26,000 in Wayne counties.
The collaborators include JARC of Farmington Hills, Community Living Centers, Inc., of Farmington, Community Living Services of Wayne and Oakland, the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center of Clinton Township and Auburn Hills, Neighborhood Services Organization and the Wayne Center, ARC of Northwest Detroit, Angels’ Place of Southfield and a consulting-evaluation​ firm.
Basic signs of Alzheimer’s can include behaviors that limit social skills such as a lack of interaction with others, difficulty completing a familiar task such as dressing or recognizing familiar places and people, said Fritz-Cottle.
“We’ve already started the initial collaboration with our partners,” she said, noting three staff members from the association have been tasked with training. “We are determining what kinds of training will be most effective.”
Training time and the number of training sessions will vary from agency to agency, Fritz-Cottle said.
One of the partners, MORC, is starting the training on March 11 for MORC staff, direct support professionals, families and any other interested caregivers, said Diane Lindsay, director of Clinical Operations.
“It is my hope that this training will enable us to better serve individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” Lindsay said. “The training is intended to assist professionals and caregivers with identification of the symptoms, support strategies, and ways to keep people engaged in life.”
So far, she said there is enthusiasm among agencies that take care of people with disabilities to identify those with Alzheimer’s, Fritz-Cottle said.
“Every single provider we have brought to the table is passionate, committed and recognizes the need for this type of training.”
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Trump a potential threat to those with disabilities

By JERRY WOLFFE

There Trump goes again.

Recent comments by GOP Presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump are sending shivers through the disability and mental health communities.

If Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States by some quirk of the political gods, it could, if he gets his way, mean the dismantling of the support system that allows those with disabilities and mental illness to get proper treatment and live in communities.

Trump, who leads the Republican presidential field and could head the GOP ticket in November, started off by mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who was born with a joint condition that does not allow him complete control of his limbs.

Kovaleski, who worked at many prestigious newspapers before the Times, was the victim of Trump’s ire for contradicting Trump’s recollection that “thousands of (Muslim) people” in New Jersey cheered after the 9-11 World Trade Center attack.

On the podium at a Nov. 24, 2015 campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, Trump jerked his arms all around to mimic Kovaleski’s disability.

“Now, the poor guy – you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah I don’t know what he said! I don’t remember!” Trump said as he flapped his arms before the crowd.

Kovaleski, an investigative reporter who covered Trump for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, according to the Associated Press, contributed to reporting that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.

FOX contributor, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, author, and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer was the target of Trump’s red rage after Krauthammer said Trump was a “rodeo clown.”

“I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names,” Trump said.

Krauthammer incurred a spinal cord injury that left him unable to walk.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump said the nation has a “tremendous mental health problem” that no one is addressing: “And they should be looking at mental health,” Trump said. “We should build, like, institutions for people that are sickos. We have sickos all over the place. And that’s the problem.” Was he talking about those who use guns to kill innocents or the mentally ill who face terrible stigma as it is in society.
 
What is needed is more resources devoted to diagnosis, developing more effective psychotropic medications and treatment being available for all regardless of economic status and ability to pay.

So after decades of work of arm-twisting state and federal lawmakers and agencies to shut 13 of the 16 state institutions in Michigan for those with disabilities and mental illness, Trump wants to go back to the terrible days of people spending their lives in institutions like my father’s brother Alex, who  had the same disability I do – cerebral palsy. Only by the grace of God, my parents’ courage and love did I escape the same fate when doctors urged my parents institutionalize me for “Jerry’s own good.”

Political leaders need to be more compassionate, informed, and provide adequate funding to better treat all who are ill in society. I learn this anew every day I work for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has moved tens of thousands of those with disabilities and mental illness out of institutions and into the community so each can live a “normal” life.

We don’t need to build more barred institutions as Trump suggests where some lived their life, died, and were buried in an unmarked grave.

Obviously, we can’t elect anyone who has a reptilian heart and hateful mind such as Trump who will lead us back to the dark ages.

President Trump would be threat to those with disabilities

By JERRY WOLFFE

There goes Trump again.

Recent comments by GOP Presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump are sending shivers through the disability and mental health communities.

If Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States by some quirk of the political gods, it could, if he gets his way, mean the dismantling of the support system that allows those with disabilities and mental illness to get proper treatment and live in communities.

Trump, who leads the Republican presidential field and could head the GOP ticket in November, started off by mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who was born with a joint condition that does not allow him complete control of his limbs.

Kovaleski, who worked at many prestigious newspapers before the Times, was the victim of Trump’s ire for contradicting Trump’s recollection that “thousands of (Muslim) people” in New Jersey cheered after the 9-11 World Trade Center attack.

On the podium at a Nov. 24, 2015 campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, Trump jerked his arms all around to mimic Kovaleski’s disability.

“Now, the poor guy – you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah I don’t know what he said! I don’t remember!” Trump said as he flapped his arms before the crowd.

Kovaleski, an investigative reporter who covered Trump for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, according to the Associated Press, contributed to reporting that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.

FOX contributor, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, author, attorney, and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer was the target of Trump’s red rage after Krauthammer said Trump was a “rodeo clown.”

“I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names,” Trump said.

Krauthammer incurred a spinal cord injury as a young man in a diving accident that left him unable to walk.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump said the nation has a “tremendous mental health problem” that no one is addressing: “And they should be looking at mental health,” Trump said. “We should build, like, institutions for people that are sickos. We have sickos all over the place. And that’s the problem.” Was he talking about those who use guns to kill innocents or the mentally ill who face terrible stigma as it is in society?
 
What we need is more money spent to better diagnose those with mental illness, increased research into effective medications for those with m.i. and treatment available to those in need. 

But after decades of work of arm-twisting state and federal lawmakers and agencies to shut 13 of the 16 state institutions in Michigan for those with disabilities and mental illness, Trump wants to go back to the terrible days of people spending their lives in institutions like my father’s brother Alex, who  had the same disability I do – cerebral palsy. Only by the grace of God, my parents’ courage and love did I escape the same fate when doctors urged my parents institutionalize me for “Jerry’s own good.”

Political leaders need to be more compassionate, informed, and provide adequate funding to better treat all who are ill in society. I learn this anew every day I work for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has moved tens of thousands of those with disabilities and mental illness out of institutions and into the community so each can live a “normal” life.

We don’t need to build more barred institutions as Trump suggests where some lived their life, died, and were buried in an unmarked grave.

Obviously, we can’t elect anyone who has a reptilian heart and hateful mind such as Trump who will lead us back to the dark ages.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Justice Bernstein delivers one of the 'great moments' in MORC history





By JERRY WOLFFE
(c) For MORC MATTERS


Richard Bernstein brought tears of joy and gave great encouragement to those working with people with disabilities in “a historic speech” about the challenges he overcame to be the first blind state Supreme Court Justice in the nation.

His words left about 150 staff and guests at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center greatly motivated to continue the work of giving those with disabilities a chance at a happy and purposeful life.

“He was just wonderful,” said Dr. Barry Schoenbart, director of Healthcare Infomatics, of Bernstein’s message of Dec. 17. “It was really moving, motivational and inspirational of him to thank the staff at MORC for devoting their careers to helping other people. He is a remarkable down-to-earth kind of a guy.”

Nancy Ricotta, reimbursement supervisor of Consumer Financial Affairs, said Bernstein’s words hit “a bulls-eye right in my heart. I was absolutely unprepared for that kind of a talk. I thought we were going to listen to an educated well-spoken man tell us about his career. When he talked about spiritual strength I was a goner.

“He said the words I’ve said a thousand times,” said Ricotta, whose daughter Chelsea has a disability.

When Bernstein spoke about pain and suffering and wondered if people like Chelsea will ever land upon the “peaceful shore” where she will be happy, tears swelled up in Ricotta’s eyes and she left the room for a few moments to compose herself.

“He is elegant and that’s an understatement,” she said.

Many were deeply moved by Bernstein’s understanding of disability and saying how much he appreciates the difficult work MORC workers do daily.

Jane Guy of the HIM Department said Bernstein “is a very good speaker in a spiritual way. He definitely has passion for what he believes in. He was encouraging to everyone and people like to hear that.”

Bernstein noted in his speech: “It’s not the struggles we face, but how we face them.”

He then for the first time publicly revealed discrimination he experienced earlier in his life.

After graduating summa cum laude from Northwestern University, Bernstein interviewed with legal firms hoping to land a job as an attorney. A law degree from Northwestern is prestigious and invariably a ticket to a position at a top-notch firm.

“I didn’t even get one call-back after interviewing with 65 firms on campus,” he said. “I didn’t have to interview with them but I wanted to see what it was like when one is blind and trying to get a job.”

Bernstein then went to work at his family’s Farmington Hills law firm and established a division that fought for civil rights pro bono for those with disabilities.

“I just thought he was one terrific person,” said receptionist Sue Harp. “He’s a very accomplished individual and I thoroughly enjoyed his speech.”

Kym Juntti, Training and CPLS Director, said: “I found his message inspiring and thought provoking.

"It was a good reminder for all of us to not let barriers deter us from our mission of advocacy for those who voices are often times silenced or forgotten. In a time when it seems those in power have lost touch with the daily struggles of those we serve, it is nice to know Justice Bernstein has the courage, experience and wisdom to remind them.”

MORC Executive Director Gerald Provencal said Bernstein’s presentation “was truly one of the great moments in the long history of MORC fighting for rights for those with disabilities.

“Bernstein’s speech reminded us that this work is not labor, not employment. It is a gift and we should accept it as such,” Provencal said.

“We have an opportunity to make life whatever we chose to make it. And, that is also the case for the people we work for who count on us.

“Justice Bernstein left the audience not just thrilled with him being there and motivated by his speech but we were reminded there is a great challenge in front of each of us – a challenge we should treasure and make us all better for accepting that challenge.”






Monday, December 7, 2015

Rochester church donates 2,500 gifts to those with disabilities

By Jerry Wolffe,                                      
Posted: |                                        
                                   
Members of St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church in Rochester again this year have donated some 2,500 gifts for people with disabilities that the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center serves in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

“It’s going on 30 years,” said support coordinator Donna Arsenault as some 40 of her colleagues picked up 1,250 gifts organized on a gym floor at MORC’s Clinton Township office to deliver before Christmas. Another 1,200 or so gifts also were at MORC’s Auburn Hills office to be distributed in time for the holidays.

“I think this is a perfect example of the true spirit of Christmas,” said Arsenault, referring to the generosity of the members of St. Andrew’s. Parishioner Diane Lucey of the church which serves the spiritual needs of 4,700 households helped coordinate the donations.

“The generosity of this church reminds us of the good in society,” said Support Coordinator Supervisor Barry Jenneman. “I look forward to this day each year. The kindness and caring that the St. Andrews congregation displays never ceases to amaze me.”

The church had several giving trees and parishioners picked out cards to fulfill the requests of those with disabilities that MORC helps live in the community with the type of supports needed.

One package among the hundreds on the gym floor contained boxer briefs, slippers size 8-1/2, khaki pants, coloring books, and “an assortment of coffee.”

“For some these gifts are the only thing they will get for Christmas,” Arsenault said. “It just shows kindness, generosity, giving and unconditional love for people” by the parishioners at the church.

The parishioners do all the shopping. The gifts are then brought to MORC’s two offices in Macomb and Oakland counties. On Friday, it was the day that support coordinators at the Clinton Township office went up and down rows looking for gifts for those who are part of their caseload.

The gifts are to be no more than $20 but in some cases, they exceed the limit.

“I think it’s a blessing to be part of such generosity,” said Support Coordinator Supervisor Helen Hoberg. “It’s the highlight of our jobs.”

Dawn Smith who works with support coordinator Kari Arms had picked up five gifts and was looking for more. “I expect to find 34 gifts,” she said. “We plan to pass them out before Christmas. It’s really cool. It’s awesome.”

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Holiday Dinner Dance to support Special Olympics in Macomb

By JERRY WOLFFE

A holiday dinner dance is scheduled for Thursday (Dec. 3) from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Mirage located at 16980 18 Mile Road in Clinton Township, Michigan.

The event is presented by Special Olympics of Macomb. Tickets cost $27 per person and include dinner, dancing and a special visitor.

Contact Nancy Keefer at (586) 634-5602 for information. Please make checks payable to Special Olympics Macomb, 3631 Jasper, Sterling Heights, Michigan, 48310.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Go see Red Wings alumni play to raise money for MORC


The Carhartt vs. Red Wings Alumni game for MORC is just a couple weeks away.  Please join us at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, at the Dearborn Ice Skating Center for a lot of fun and a good cause - our people we support! To see some action from other years, click on the url below....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEGv55eVyUk

Friday, November 13, 2015

Congress tries to stop caregivers from receiving overtime pay


(CREDIT: Kourtney Liepelt as writer from Home Health Care News for this story)

Legislation aimed at restoring overtime exemptions for home care workers has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, just days before the Department of Labor is slated to actively enforce a rule extending federal minimum wage and overtime protections to such employees.

Given the bill’s chances of survival, though, one trade organization has now vowed to take its previously filed lawsuit against the rules to the Supreme Court.

The measure, dubbed the “Ensuring Access to Affordable and Quality Home Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act,” seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to return home care workers to a category that exempts them from receiving overtime. It is sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, and Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican from Michigan.

Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that nearly 2 million home care workers are in fact eligible for minimum wage and overtime after the DOL in 2013 stated home care agencies could no longer claim that the workers were excluded from FLSA provisions instated in the 1970s. The DOL’s move was originally challenged by a handful of trade organizations, including the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC), arguing that access to care could be compromised if costs go up.

Now, NAHC was quick to express support for the new legislation, which was introduced Nov. 7.
 
“While home care workers deserve fair and reasonable wages for their crucial services in keeping seniors and persons with disabilities safely at home with high quality care, the regulatory changes do not further that goal appropriately,” NAHC President Val Halamandaris wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “[The] bill would provide the opportunity for all those involved in home care to design and implement effective changes that protect workers and our most vulnerable citizens at the same time.”

Provisions officially took effect Oct. 13, but the DOL indicated it wouldn’t start enforcing them for 30 days, or Nov. 12. Still, the effective date prompted mixed reactions, as some providers voiced concerns about their business models while others maintained a more positive outlook, claiming that higher home care rates are indeed sustainable.

States have made moves to adhere to the federal rules. Kansas, in particular, recently submitted a request for $6.5 million in funding to cover associated costs after previously claiming its Medicaid budget doesn’t account for the $12 million needed to increase home care workers’ wages, meaning a potential reduction in services offered — both plights topping NAHC’s list of concerns.

“The recent regulatory changes in the definition and application of these longstanding FLSA exemptions have only served to erect needless barriers to home care and to increase costs to financially strapped state Medicaid programs,” Halamandaris wrote. “At the same time, the dedicated and invaluable workers who provide this care have not seen any improvement in their overall wages as the funds necessary to cover overtime costs are simply not available from consumers and government health programs such as Medicaid.”

While NAHC indicated it views supporting the legislation as “another avenue for addressing the impact of the DOL rules in home care,” according to a news release, the organization plans to move forward with alternate efforts.

“The legislation has a limited chance of success in the immediate future…Similar measures to defund the implementations of the rules are likely to face similar results,” the release states. “As a result, NAHC has vowed to take its lawsuit to the Supreme Court by appealing the decision of the appellate court.”
 
(Compiled by Jerry Wolffe, writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Carhartt team to take on Red Wings to aid MORC

For more information, call (248) 390-0788

By JERRY WOLFFE

MORC Writer-in-residence

Carhartt employees will take on the Detroit Red Wings Alumni for the 11th straight year to benefit children and adults with disabilities served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center (MORC).

This year's game will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4th at 7 p.m. at the Dearborn Ice Center at 14900 Ford Road in Dearborn.

This game will raise funds for food, beds, appliances and emergency help for Christmas and throughout the year. In the past, Carhartt has helped thousands of the people MORC serves in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, Genesee, Washtenaw, Monroe, Sanilac, Lapeer, and Livingston counties.

Please help us spread the word about the game by encouraging family, friends, colleagues and neighbors to attend. We also would appreciate support from sponsors. Be sure to come out and support Detroit hockey at its finest.

The event is free for individuals with disabilities and caregivers or family members who accompany them.  Please RSVP to (248) 390-0788 and let us know how many people are attending.  You will receive your tickets at the door on game day.

General public tickets are $10 each and are only available on game day at the arena.
The venue is wheelchair accessible and discounts will be available on hot dogs and pop.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Macomb-Oakland Regional Center names new Executive Director

By JERRY WOLFFE

Dennis Bott has been named the new Executive Director of the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc. by the Board of Directors, replacing Jerry Provencal, who plans to retire in March 2016.
“Dennis stood out for his strong organizational skills, knowledge of MORC’s operations and established relationships with key funders and providers,” said MORC Board Chairman Dave Reece. “We were also impressed with the vision he articulated to lead the company into the future.”


Bott, who lives in West Bloomfield and is the organization’s current Chief Operating Officer, has been with the agency since 1976.
He worked directly on early community placement initiatives including participating in the closure of many of the state’s largest institutions for individuals with intellectual disabilities. He then assisted with MORC’s transition from a State agency to a non-profit entity in 1996.

Bott played an integral role in promoting the organization’s growth through oversight of critical operational areas including finance, information technology, contracts and reimbursement. Bott is a past recipient of the ARC of Oakland County President’s Award. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Science degree in Administration from Central Michigan University.

The Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, with offices in Clinton Township, Auburn Hills, and Livonia, provides wide-ranging services to individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. It is the largest non-profit in Southeast Michigan.
MORC's mission is to serve men, women, and children with differing abilities so they may, as true citizens, celebrate life, freedom, and independence in the community. MORC currently provides services and supports to close to 5,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties with the goal of helping them live more independently in the community setting of their choice.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Study: Companies discriminate against qualified candidatfes with disabilities

CREDIT: Noam Scheiber of the NEW YORK TIMES
 
Employers appear to discriminate against well-qualified job candidates who have a disability, researchers at Rutgers and Syracuse universities have concluded.
 
The researchers, who sent résumés and cover letters on behalf of fictitious candidates for thousands of accounting jobs, found that employers expressed interest in candidates who disclosed a disability about 26 percent less frequently than in candidates who did not.
“I don’t think we were astounded by the fact that there were fewer expressions of interest” for people with disabilities, said Lisa Schur, a Rutgers political scientist who was part of the research team. “But I don’t think we were expecting it to be as large.”
The sole variation among the otherwise identically qualified candidates appeared in the cover letters, which revealed a disability for some but not for others.
The study, though it deals only with the accounting profession, may help explain why just 34 percent of working-age people with disabilities were employed as of 2013, versus 74 percent of those without disabilities.
                 
Previous studies attempting to explain why disabled people are employed at lower rates generally suffered from their inability to control for subtle differences in qualifications that may have made disabled job candidates less attractive to employers, or for the possibility that disabled people were simply less interested in employment.
Other studies, based on surveys or laboratory experiments that asked people how likely they would be to hire a hypothetical disabled candidate, suffered from the possibility that some respondents were simply telling researchers what they thought was socially acceptable. Volunteers in such studies may have also differed in key ways from the human resources personnel who act as gatekeepers for job candidates, according to Meera Adya, another co-author, who is a social psychologist at Syracuse University.

The fictitious cover letter approach, which other scholars have used to document discrimination on the basis of race and gender, largely solved these problems.
“These kinds of experiments are very important in research on discrimination, and to the best of my knowledge this is the first serious attempt to do this kind of experiment on disability discrimination in the United States,” said David Neumark, a labor economist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies discrimination. “The study is well done.”
The researchers constructed two separate résumés: one for a highly qualified candidate with six years of experience, and one for a novice candidate about one year out of college. For each résumé, they created three different cover letters: one for a candidate with no disability, one for a candidate who disclosed a spinal cord injury and one for a candidate who disclosed having Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder that can make social interaction difficult.

Earlier studies had suggested that better qualifications might help disabled candidates overcome employment discrimination, but the researchers found the opposite. Employers were about 34 percent less likely to show interest in an experienced disabled candidate, but only about 15 percent less likely to express interest in a disabled candidate just starting out his or her career. (The latter result was not statistically significant.)
At publicly traded companies, which may be more concerned about their reputations and more sensitive to charges of discrimination, evidence of discrimination on the basis of disability seemed largely to disappear. The same was true at firms that receive federal contracts, which are required by the government to make a special effort to hire disabled workers.
“The problem was concentrated,” said Douglas Kruse, a Rutgers economist who was part of the research team and who has used a wheelchair since a spinal cord injury in 1990. “It does suggest a pretty convincing pattern.”
 
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Legislation would OK mental illness treatment before incident occurs

By JERRY WOLFFE

Family and friends would be permitted to get mental health treatment for a person close to them before an unfortunate incident under legislation passed by the House.

In 2004, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed "Kevin's Law" in honor of Kevin Heisinger, who was beaten to death in a Kalamazoo bus/train station by a man with schizophrenia who stopped taking his medication.

Current law allows judges to order involuntary assisted outpatient treatment, but only after a major incident occurs.

Under HB 4674, which passed 103-2, sponsored by Rep. Tom Leonard III (R-DeWitt Township), a family member or friend would be allowed to petition the court and allow judges to order outpatient treatment for those who have had their mental illness confirmed by a physician, all without a crime being committed.

"This reform is sorely needed because current law makes it very difficult for people who might not recognize the severity of their situation to obtain the treatment they need," Leonard said in a statement. "In the same vein, we must guarantee individuals' due process rights are protected by providing legal counsel to guide them through the court process if they believe (assisted outpatient treatment) AOT is not necessary. This protects both the public safety and the privileges of the individual."

Supporters have said under current law (passed about a decade ago), a crisis needs to occur before intervention could happen, and communities have been confused by the complexity of "Kevin's Law" and it hasn't been used often.

"We must make public safety - including the well-being of the individual in need of care - a priority in this type of situation, but also ensure that their rights remain protected. This legislation strikes that delicate balance."  Leonard said. "I want to thank Lt. Gov. Calley for bringing this issue to my attention, and for the strong leadership he has shown working to protect our state's most vulnerable citizens."

HB 4674 does the following:

·         Offers early intervention, since current law requires a serious incident that might endanger public safety to occur before AOT may be requested;

·         Simplifies the process of seeking court-appointed treatment; and

·         Allows a judge to order AOT before an incident has occurred that could cause injury to the prospective patient or a member of the public.

The measure has been referred to committee on Health Policy for further consideration.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Medicaid eligibility for those working who have disability changes

Credit: Mark Tower who covers local government for MLive/The Saginaw News.

 LANSING -- Any disabled Michigan resident denied Medicaid eligibility in the past because of their income level should recheck their eligibility, a state senator advises, according to a report in MLive.

Republican State Sen. Jim Stamas of Midland issued a press release reminding constituents of a change to eligibility requirements in Michigan's "Freedom to Work" program that took effect on Oct. 1.

The program, first developed in 2003, helps protect disabled Medicaid recipients who choose to work from losing access to health benefits.

Stamas said recent reforms to the program have changed what it takes to be eligible to participate, encouraging anyone rejected in the past to contact their local Department of Health and Human Services office to check if the changes impact their eligibility.

"Many Michigan residents with disabilities may now be able to receive medical assistance after a reform to the program's eligibility requirements went into effect earlier this month," Stamas said.
To be eligible for the Michigan Freedom to Work program, a resident now must:
  • Be working
  • Have a disability
  • Be between the ages 16 and 65
  • Have a total income at or under 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline
  • Have individual assets that do not exceed the Medicare Savings Program limit
Both the income level and asset total requirements have changed, according to information disseminated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
 
According to the DHHS, depending on a person's level of income, participants may or may not have to pay a premium for the coverage. Residents who wish to enroll in the program should contact their county DHHS office and ask about the new amended "Freedom to Work program" and "Bridges Eligibility Manual (BEM) 174."
"The goal of this program is to continue to assist those with disabilities without penalizing them for income they receive while working," Stamas said. "I encourage anyone who might meet the new requirements to contact their local human service department and check or recheck their eligibility."

-- Compiled by Jerry Wolffe, writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gala raises $40,000 for Futures Foundation

Kensington Church received the Heart of MORC Award for its longtime volunteer service and generosity to the people served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. Kensington representatives Emilee Skinner (far left) and Margaret Humenik (far right) accepted the award October 9 at the 17th Annual “Giving Back To The Futures” Gala, held at the San Marino Club in Troy, from Futures Foundation Interim Director Lindsay Calcatera (middle left) and MORC Executive Director Gerald R. Provencal (middle right).
 
By JERRY WOLFFE
 
TROY – Nearly $40,000 was raised by the Futures Foundation for individuals with disabilities served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center at the 17th Annual “Giving Back To The Futures” Gala.
The gala was held Oct. 9 at the San Marino Club in Troy. Some 350 attendees at the annual event enjoyed dinner, live entertainment and dancing, participation in a silent auction, and raffle drawings for prizes.
The gala is the premier annual fall event for The Futures Foundation, the fundraising arm of MORC. Along with other year-round efforts, the event generates resources to provide for the needs of people with developmental disabilities.
“It was a joy filled evening,” said Jerry Provencal, MORC’s Executive Director, who plans to retire next spring after having served 50 years in the mental health field.
“From the opening strains of the jazz quartet to the announcement of the silent auction winners, it was a fun, exciting event. The video presentation was inspiring and reminded everyone of why we were there – to help realize the needs and dreams of the people we serve at MORC.”
Live music was provided by the RJ Spangler Jazz Quartet during the cocktail hour and by the Pulse band after dinner. The silent auction offered more than 60 items such as restaurant gift cards, art, electronics, outdoor/home accessories, and casino/hotel getaways.
This year’s Presenting Sponsor was Netsmart, and other major sponsors included PVS Chemicals, Nancy Tancredi, Fifth Third Bank, Gerald Provencal, Afia, New Horizons, Jewish Vocational Services, JS Clark Agency, Plante Moran, RX Specialties, and the MORC Holding Company Board of Directors.
“We couldn’t have had such an outstanding event without the critical, generous support from all of our sponsors,” said Lindsay Calcatera, Interim Futures Foundation Director.
The annual Heart of MORC Award, for exemplary service, was given to Kensington Church.
With the backing of donors and community partners, the Futures Foundation awarded over $100,000 in grants in 2014 to help fund a better quality of life for those served by MORC.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.
 
 
 

 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Study: Life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome increases

http://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/7470/20151011/down-syndrome-life-expectancy-today-increased.htm

By JERRY WOLFFE
 
The life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome, the most common genetic condition, is increasing, according to a report in the Science Times.
 
One in every 691 babies born in the United States has Down Syndrome, according to the website of the National Down Syndrome Society.
 
The National Down Syndrome Society added that each year 6,000 babies are born with the condition in the United States and about 40,000 of Americans have Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome includes the presence of an extra chromosome 21, and is characterized by mild to severe mental impairment, weak muscle tone, shorter height and a flattened facial profile.

According to the doctors and experts, children born with Down Syndrome suffer from a number of problems with their organs such as hearing loss and eye cataracts. However, most of them do not experience this kind of issue but do have cognitive delays from mild to moderate, and yet, children with this condition have well-developed social skills.

Different advancements are being made to help people with Down Syndrome and their families. Screening now happens during pregnancy, which enables the mothers to identify before birth if they will have a child with the syndrome.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released recommendations for doctors to help and provide the needs of children with this condition which led to a higher detection rate and is vital to their overall health.

The local media centers have created support centers for children and families with Down Syndrome.

Our society has also changed the way individuals with disabilities are treated overall. At the same time, medical technology has been advanced, which paved the way in making the life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome.

Thus, the life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome has significantly increased, ranging from the age of 25 to 60 as of today. This was due to early intervention that improves the condition of those children, says Debra Emerson, CEO of St. Madeleine Sophie's Center of El Cajon, California.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer in residence, advocate at large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Troy market selects The Arc of Oakland County for gift


By JERRY WOLFFE

 
TROY --   Whole Foods Market has chosen the The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. as its Community Support Day partner. On Oct. 20, the market will donate 5 percent of the day’s sales to the nonprofit.
Staff from the ARC will be in the store welcoming patrons and talking about the organization from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Whole Foods Market in Troy is located at 2880 West Maple Road. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization that provides direct legal, general advocacy, informational and referral services as well as community awareness for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
The Arc is the world’s largest community-based organization of, and for, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization exists to ensure that all individuals with disabilities are valued, and that they and their families can participate fully in, and contribute to, the life of the community.
For more information on the Community Support Day, please contact The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. at (248) 816-1900.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Voices of Disabilities: DIA opens hearts, doors to disabled, seniors and v...

Voices of Disabilities: DIA opens hearts, doors to disabled, seniors and v...:   Staff from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and some of the people who the nonprofit serves tour the Detroit Institute of Arts ...

DIA opens hearts, doors to disabled, seniors and veterans


 

Staff from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and some of the people who the nonprofit serves tour the Detroit Institute of Arts before trying classes to make ceramic art. / DIA/File

By Jerry Wolffe, For Digital First Media

Posted: 10/05/15, 4:17 PM EDT | Updated: 2 hrs ago

The Detroit Institute of Arts is bringing discovery, joy and art to the lives of those with disabilities, seniors, and veterans with its Community Group Program.

The program provides meaningful experiences through art with gallery tours and hands-on art making. The last class this fall for those with disabilities will be Thursday.

During September and early October, the DIA invited 15 to 18 people with disabilities who the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center serves to visit the Institute to create artworks, says Patty Sims Sunisloe, MORC’s project director.

“They are opening their doors and hearts to people with disabilities and changing lives to a great extent,” says Sims Sunisloe, who added individuals MORC serves attended classes in the Walter Gibbs educational studio on Sept. 17, 24 and Oct. 1.

The MORC attendees have made painted masks and lithographs and will frame them at their last class this week, Sims Sunisloe says. DIA spokesman Larisa Zade said the artworks from last year’s session are on display in the teaching studio.

“The DIA has been proud to partner with local social service agencies for over 20 years through the Community Group Program,” says the DIA’s Director of the Studio Program Charles Garling. “We strive for diversity in the organizations with whom we seek to partner, working to serve individuals across all ages and physical and cognitive abilities.”

Projects during the past year have been multimedia self-portraits, clay masks, drums and pots, printmaking, bookmaking and wood sculpture.

Current groups in the program besides those from MORC include veterans from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Piquette Square for Veterans and seniors from the Hanna House, all of Detroit, according to a statement from the DIA.

“One of our goals is to help people understand that the Detroit Institute of Arts is for everyone, regardless of your abilities or background with art,” Garling says. “Through the Community Group Program, we strive to provide safe space for individuals, who might otherwise be marginalized, to explore and express through art-based discussions and art-making experiences. Year after year, program participants have happily expressed their appreciation of the program, noting an increase in their confidence and openness to communicate with others.”

To facilitate these classes, DIA teaching artists such as Byron Nemela utilize a learner-centered, process-oriented teaching practice which uses motivating questions and topics that allow participants to create something personally meaningful, Zade says.

Sims Sunisloe adds, “The feedback I consistently get from families, parents and caregivers is that this program is changing lives. We really appreciate how warm, welcoming and hospitable the staff at the DIA has been to everyone.

“The staff’s ability to find a way to reach inside those with disabilities to express their talents is something quite extraordinary,” she says. “(There are) no boundaries to their abilities to be expressive or show who they are as an individual.”

The DIA paid for materials and for transportation on a private bus from MORC facilities in Clinton Township or Auburn Hills to the DIA.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.