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Friday, October 31, 2014

Parents, children hurt by funding cuts



By JERRY WOLFFE
Becky Richey and her husband Jon have seen summer camp and respite eliminated for their teenage son and daughter who each have autism.
It hurts, Becky Richey said. She added, however, she understands the recent cutbacks in general funds by the Michigan Legislature leaves the nonprofits that serve those with disabilities or mental illness with no choice but to try and make the least painful cuts.
“You can’t cut ... funding for those with disabilities and expect them to do as well,” said Richey, 48, of Clarkston in reference to her son, Jacob, 16, and daughter, Hannah, 17.
“We as a country aren’t thinking about those in society who are most vulnerable.”
The Richey family lost respite and Scamp --  a $500 a week camp her teens could go to five days a week for five weeks during the summer. Jacob had gone to Scamp for 11 years but it is not likely next summer unless lawmakers pass a special appropriation to provide more money for the care of the 3,700 to 4,400 people with disabilities and mental illness that the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and other nonprofits serve.
During camp which is held between 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., some 200 to 300 children with disabilities divide up into groups, get a “buddy,” and go boating, fishing, swimming, to the movie or on nature walks, Bechy said.
The family used to get 12 hours per week in respite, or six hours each child.
Those who are eligible for Medicaid are still getting respite, said Bechy, but her family doesn’t qualify for the federal program.
“We would look at how we would use respite to see what services our children needed to have the best possible life. Funding cuts will affect my children’s long-term development and socialization.”
She said respite was halted Sept. 1, or a month before the 2014-15 fiscal year began.
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 28, 2014

Bernstein will bring unique perspective to court



By JERRY WOLFFE

Attorney Richard Bernstein said his being blind from birth and becoming a voice for the voiceless in society will add to the fairness and perspective of the Michigan Supreme Court if he wins a seat in the Nov. 4 election.
“We can’t have the same kind of people” on the court said the Birmingham resident who was born blind and has filed dozens of civil rights cases on behalf of people with disabilities.
“Vision is a great distraction” to justice, he said in an exclusive interview Tuesday with this reporter who has written a “Voices of Disability” column for 15 years and wrote about Bernstein’s legal successes in making Detroit buses more accessible, Detroit Metropolitan Airport more aware of the needs of those with disabilities and seniors and the University of Michigan Stadium comply with the Americans with Disabilities Architectural Guidelines in a nationally followed lawsuit.
“People who are blind are not distracted by the types of things that create prejudice,” he said. “A good justice is a good listener. Blind people are inherently good listeners.”
Bernstein said those who criticize him for not having experience as a judge should consider some of the best Supreme Court Justices in America never worked behind the bench, including the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
“A justice has to have unique life experience,” Bernstein said. “All the voices must be represented,” he said. “I am going to represent the idea of fairness. It (courts) must be fair to all people who come before the court. And, you only have fairness when all perspectives are at the table.”
Since he started campaigning for the court, Bernstein has criss-crossed the state.
“I’ve ran this race like I’ve run the 18 marathons and Ironman competition I have completed,” he said. “I believe I can make a positive difference in everyone’s life and this gives me the energy and impetus to push ahead.”
“Every one of our cases taught the general society that ‘what is good for those with disabilities is good for everyone.’ The work that we have done has transformed lives for everyone. I will approach the job of being a justice with fairness, tenacity and resolve to do what needs to be done no matter how difficult it may be.”
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 27, 2014

Yoga might aid those with multiple sclerosis



By JERRY WOLFFE

A Yoga teacher is working with people with multiple sclerosis to help them try and find a way to live more pain-free and productive lives.
Mindy Eisenberg, of Franklin, says she has been a Yoga instructor for a decade and trained others in adaptive Yoga for those with multiple sclerosis, a progressive disease of the central nervous system.
Eisenberg, who has been a Yoga practioner for 20 years, said she got the idea to teach Yoga to those with multiple sclerosis because her late mother, Linda Weingarten, had the debilitating disability.
Yoga is said by Eisenberg and some physicians to help improve the balance of those with multiple sclerosis, reduce spasticity and rigidity and ease anxiety as well as strengthening muscles.
Free classes to those with the disability are taught weekly in St. Clair Shores in Macomb County, and Novi, Rochester, Southfield and Bloomfield Township in Oakland County, said Eisenberg.
“People get excited when they are able to do something they were unable to do before” the onset of the disability, she said.
She said Yoga therapy “looks at the whole body” and “one’s attitude” is key in battling multiple sclerosis. Eisenberg said she sets the pace of the class “on the energy of (those students in) the room.”
At 7 p.m. on Nov. 15, a 6th annual fundraiser and leadership recognition dinner, “Party with a Purpose,” will be held at the Shriners Silver Garden Events Center, 24350 Southfield Road. The event is sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. Tickets are $100. The evening features dinner, silent auction and a 50-50 raffle.
Contact yogaspiritwellness@gmail.com for more information.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Service dog "Mr. Norton" runner-up employee of the month



He is humble and willing to be a servant to anyone, not only his so called “master” who he’s had buffaloed since the day we met. The only caveat is he must be paid for doing a service unlike when he was “little Norton and not Mr. Norton.”

He is good for physical and mental health of MORC employees. When he lies in the hall protecting Mike Tripp, the entire staff and I from any would-be terrorists as a watchdog, passersby have to jump over him, thereby getting some good cardio exercise. “Dead dog in hallways,” a top-notch executive and liberator of people has said more than once in silent admiration.

His gentle soul attracts both males and females and I’m sure it lowers their blood pressure when they pet him (even though many with Ph.Ds, M.D.s and Masters degrees have demonstrated any ability to read his vest: “Do not pet me, I am working.”) This is his master’s weakness for he can’t say no to anything that might lift morale. (BTW, Mr. Norton is amazingly gifted at attracting males and females. He can be rented for one hour on any Saturday for $50. His owner (a former mediocre writer of little note) guarantees Mr. Norton will attract a lovely companion for any lonely soul. He plays the field, especially catching yellow tennis balls in the tall grass.

He keeps the MORC grounds free of geese. Well, sort of. H-R Director Mr. Peter Lynch takes him out there and the geese instinctively think Mr. Norton is going to chase and eat them. Highly doubtful. Mr. Norton wouldn’t know how to prepare Fois Gras even if his French-Canadian mother gave him the menu in Francais.

Mr. Norton is excellent at working a crowd and taking charge of a situation. Until his owner intervened, Mr. Norton had one big con job going on by stopping at the doors of wonderful people and co-workers and conning them out of a treat, both morning and afternoon. He can get to Marcia Marklin’s office in 10 seconds, showing he is an example of how good and valuable it is to be in good aerobic shape.

Mr. Norton keeps vermin and such out of MORC. One day as he was on duty, a mouse ran over him as he lay prone on the floor in the hall. Mr. Norton lifted his head, turned to the right and said to me: “It’s only a mouse, why chase him. He’s not bothering me.” He then resumed his nap. A few weeks later, a mouse ran into his office and then out. Mr. Norton was nearly as fast as a red BMW, galloping down the hall and around the corner after the mouse, finally pinning it against a printer as Melissa climbed on a chair with wheels no less and called for health and safety to rid her office from the mouse. Mr. Norton got bored since the mouse wasn’t Mickey and didn’t do any tricks and left.

His most outstanding quality is he unconditionally loves everyone. Well, sort of. He loves them unconditionally if he can smell the scent of their pets on their shoes and if they give him a treat. He especially loves Jane and Linda and anyone who will give him a walk.

And, if one really pays attention, Mr. Norton is an example of one who gives unconditional love to anyone. We all can learn from this highly evolved animal who lives to serve (mostly himself and his belly) and an ole guy who uses a wheelchair and just loves riding his handcycle on the track with Mr.Norton by his side, whispering. “Be inspired, ole man, not everyone has equal rights in America, yet and it’s your job and those you work with to lead us all to a more humane Mr. Norton-like world.