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Saturday, May 16, 2015

MORC housing specialist wins award

Layne wins Corrie Bair award from state disability rights coalition
David Layne won the Corrie Bair Building Inclusive Communities Award from the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition for 20 years of advocacy for affordable accessible homes for people with disabilities.
"I was so honored," said Layne, the Nursing Facility Transitions specialist at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. Layne, of Rochester who has twin 19-year-old sons, Jacob and Joshua, has worked for MORC as a contract housing specialist since 2009.
"To hold such people in esteem and have them give you an award is an honor of a lifetime," said Layne referring to retiring MDRC Director Norm DeLisle and assistant director RoAnn Chaney, formerly of the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living.
He was nominated for the award by the Michigan Disability Housing Workgroup which meets every other month in Lansing.
"The goal of all of this is to build inclusive communities," said Layne, who helps transition people from nursing homes to their own places through Mi-Choice or with the assistance of the Disability Network, formerly Centers for Independent Living.
"I've worked on finding affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities since the 1990s," he said. "I used to line up group homes for MORC, the State of Michigan and Oakland and Macomb counties."
He is a licensed broker and has been a real estate agent since 1977.
"There's a huge housing shortage for those with disabilities and the elderly at a time when rents are going up," said Layne, noting an average one-bedroom apartment costs $600 to $700 a month and a person on Supplemental Security Income receives $733 a month, making it financially impossible for a person with a disability to afford to rent a home.
He said the Olmstead ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court found a person with a disability has a civil right to housing and it is not an entitlement, Layne said. "It is a civil right to live in the community and receive services when possible," he said.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said "we have an obligation to provide affordable housing," said Layne. "Inherent in the Olmsted ruling is the obligation that housing choices are made available to the elderly and those with disabilities."
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, May 13, 2015

Caregiver Appreciation Day to feature son of Motown legend

(from left: Claudreen Jackson, her son, Pervice Jackson, Jr, and Pervice's sister, Stephanie. Pervice will perform at MORC's Caregiver Appreciation Day on Thursday.


The 33rd annual Macomb-Oakland Regional Center’s Caregiver Appreciation Day and Fashion Show will honor 800 caregivers in attendance at the Palazzo Grande Banquet in Shelby Township Thursday.
P.J. Jackson, son of the late Motown legend Pervice Jackson, Sr., of the Spinners will model and sing at the event from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The event will feature 100 caregivers and people with disabilities modeling together in what is known as Detroit’s biggest fashion show, the MORC Caregiver Fashion Show. Jackson Jr., of Oak Park, has autism. He will model and sing with his mother, Claudreen Jackson of Detroit, his sister, Stephanie Jackson of Detroit, who 0is a caregiver with a local nonprofit.
“He was always proud of P.J., said Claudreen. “ All of our people with disabilities have overcome a great deal, as have their caregivers.”
“We have thousands of proud parents,” said MORC Executive Director Gerald Provencal, who along with others was instrumental in closing 12 state institutions where 13,000 people with disabilities were housed and moved them into homes in the community with supports needed to thrive. MORC also has taught officials in 54 countries of the 196 in the world to close institutions and let those with disabilities live in the community.
In total, some 8,000 caregivers are employed by the MORC system of 100 nonprofits as well as family caregivers. They support 5,000 people with disabilities in Macomb and Oakland counties.
Models were Kohl’s clothes provided by the retailer for the runway. Kohl associate volunteers from the Rochester Hills Kohl’s store volunteer their time to support the event. Tickets are available at (248) 276-8109 and cost $35. MORC is raising funds to cover the costs for caregivers, who earn an average of $9.06 an hour, to attend.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Voices of Disabilities: Feds announce new rule to improve public transit f...

Voices of Disabilities: Feds announce new rule to improve public transit f...: By JERRY WOLFFE WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today the publication of a Final Rule clarifying that publ...

Feds announce new rule to improve public transit for those with disabilities


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today the publication of a Final Rule clarifying that public transportation providers are required to make reasonable modifications to their polices, practices and procedures to avoid discrimination and ensure programs and services are accessible to individuals with disabilities.
“Ensuring equal access to public transportation enables individuals with disabilities to have access to jobs, school, medical care and a better quality of life,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Making reasonable modifications to transit services helps bring everyone on the path to access the ladders of opportunities that all Americans strive for.”
The Final Rule applies to public entities providing fixed route, dial-a-ride and complementary paratransit services. It establishes that an individual’s disability cannot preclude a public transportation entity from providing full access to its service except where doing so would fundamentally alter the service. It also provides 27 examples of what a reasonable modification is and is not, and clarifies the definition of origin-to-destination service.
“Today’s rule simply codifies and clarifies what many in the transit community are already doing to accommodate their riders who have disabilities,” said Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. “We are making sure that reasonable modifications are part of transit provider policies and more uniformly applied while keeping decision-making in their hands.”
Further, the Final Rule brings clarity to the issue of origin-to-destination policy which has had varied interpretations and was unevenly applied throughout the Nation. The new rule requires paratransit providers that primarily operate curb-to-curb service make reasonable modifications for those passengers who need assistance beyond the curb so that they can use the service. A significant number of paratransit operators already follow such an origin-to-destination policy.
Public transportation entities receiving Federal financial assistance have long had the obligation to provide reasonable modifications under various laws and regulations. This Final Rule revises and fills identified gaps in the DOT’s regulations. It becomes effective on July 13, 2015.
- See more at:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Law enforcement officers to receive crisis intervention training

The first of two, five-day Crisis Intervention Team trainings for Oakland County Sheriff Deputies, and other local law enforcement begins on Monday (May 4) at 1690 Brown Road in Auburn Hills.

A second training was scheduled for the week of May 18 under a $275,000 Jail Diversion grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health. CIT is strategically designed to promote positive outcomes during crisis situations that require police assistance.  

“We are especially thankful for the State’s vision in supporting this valuable initiative, as well as the opportunity to provide local law enforcement officers with the necessary resources to help ensure their success in assisting people in crisis,” said Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority Executive Director and CEO Willie Brooks.

Deputies who participate in CIT will receive 40 hours of comprehensive mental health training, which includes information about mental illness and developmental disabilities, opportunities to speak with advocates, individuals with mental illness and their families, and participation in role-playing scenarios.

“It is well worth mentioning that each of the deputies receiving CIT training at both sessions in May is doing so on a volunteer basis,” said Oakland County Sheriff, Michael Bouchard. “Their dedication to be better prepared when responding to individuals in crisis, especially those who have a mental health disorder, is an accurate reflection of the level of commitment to community safety adhered to by the entire Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.”  

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country that utilize CIT have experienced significant reductions in the number of officer and personal injuries, as well as a decrease in arrest rates.

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Walkers raise $25,000 for Autism Society of Oakland County


TROY -- Some 659 people walked around the Somerset Collection in Troy to raise $25,000 for the Autism Society of Oakland County, said the society's president, Barbara Brennan.
The walk took place on the first floor of the posh shopping center off of Big Beaver Road on Sunday.
The money will go for "resources and programs in Oakland County for those with autism," said Brennan, who has two sons, aged 22 and 10 with autism.
"We are focusing on helping adults 18 and over which is an under served population," she said.
The society began in 1985 and Brennan has worked there for some 16 years. It provides no direct care but it "collaborates and helps create programs to improve the lives of those with autism," she said.
One-in-68 children being born in the United States is diagnosed with autism, a complex developmental disability that affects the individual's ability to communicate and interact with others.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Voices of Disabilities: New law goes into effect soon to help disabled fin...

Voices of Disabilities: New law goes into effect soon to help disabled fin...: By JERRY WOLFFE The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act became law last July 22 and goes into effect in the nation's 50 states th...

New law goes into effect soon to help disabled find jobs


The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act became law last July 22 and goes into effect in the nation's 50 states this July 1 with the goal of increasing the number of people with disabilities find meaningful jobs.
Mary Costillo of the Vocational Rehabilitation Department in Texas said only "one in five" people with a disability in this nation is employed, an astoundingly horrific economic and social situation for the estimated 58 million people in the United States who have a disability.
She criticized employers in her state saying Tuesday (4.28.2015) that employers are hiring "not based on a person's need." Thus, an environment of failure is being created. Apparently, employers have not been implementing reasonable accommodation in hiring people with disabilities as required by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, she noted.
"We hope to change this," she said.
A Facebook page, Workforce Innovations and Opportunity Act, has been created to get the word out about the new law.
The LEAD Center, funded by the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Policy, is hosting a four-part webinar series titled "WIOA From a Disability Perspective."
To participate in this webinar Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST), go to
to participate in the webinar.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is designed to help job seekers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.
Congress passed the Act by a wide bipartisan majority; it is the first legislative reform in 15 years of the public workforce system.
Every year the key programs that form the pillars of WIOA help tens of millions of job seekers and workers to connect to good jobs and acquire the skills and credentials needed to obtain them. The enactment of WIOA provides opportunity for reforms to ensure the American Job Center system is job-driven—responding to the needs of employers and preparing workers for jobs that are available now and in the future, according to a press release.
WIOA supersedes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and amends the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act, the Wagner-Peyser Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In general, the Act takes effect on July 1, 2015, the first full program year after enactment, unless otherwise noted. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will issue further guidance on the timeframes for implementation of these changes and proposed regulations reflecting the changes in WIOA soon after enactment.
At a state and local level, Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) must engage in a unified strategic planning process that will enhance their focus on cross-system collaboration (Title I Adult and Youth programs and services with Wagner-Peyser Employment Services and Title I of the Rehabilitation Act programs).
WIOA represents new opportunities for support for job seekers with disabilities that increases responsibility of WIBs and American Job Centers to be fully accessible and offer necessary accommodations to provide job seekers with disabilities effective and meaningful participation in the use of skills training and career pathways for 21st century jobs.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hundreds to run in ‘Miles for Smiles 5K’ to raise funds to help those with disabilities

Registration deadline for the 5k May 2nd event at Independence Oaks Park is April 29. The fee to run or walk is $30. Sign up at or contact Jennifer Lasceski at (586) 416-2075


A 5K run/walk at the Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston on May 2 is expected to have about 300 participants with the goal of raising at least $10,000 to provide for dental care for people with disabilities that the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc. serves.
It is the fourth year for the event and about 200 people ran or walked last year along the paved path in the park.
“It’s very hard to find dentists because a lot of our individuals need to be sedated to get dental work and that’s not covered by any insurance or Medicaid,” said Kerri Pfaffenberger, a speech pathologist at MORC, based in Clinton Township.
She said it can cost $1,000 alone just to sedate someone with a severe disability so a dentist can work on their teeth.
Too many times people with disabilities do not receive proper dental care and hygiene and end up in hospitals with systemic infections that result from an abscessed tooth, costing as much as $100,000, when early treatment could have prevented hospitalization.
The deadline to register for the event is April 29. Check-in for participants will be at Twin Chimneys Shelter beginning at 8:30 a.m. The 5k, or 3.1 mile race, begins at 10 a.m. There also is a one-quarter mile walk that begins shortly after the runners take off.
“We walk the course a couple of days ahead of time,” Pfaffenberger said, noting it is wheelchair accessible. “This year we are having the MORC Choir sing the National Anthem before the 10 a.m. start.”
“We were looking for alternative ways to raise money but the 5K seemed to be a very good fund-raising event,” said Pfaffenberger. “There are a lot of people in the community who participate because they enjoy the park, the cause and they know about MORC helping those with disabilities,” she said.
Awards will be presented to the top three male and female 5K run finishers overall and top three in each division: 14 & under, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70 and over. Separate awards will be given for top three 5k overall walkers, Pfaffenberger said.
Prizes also include medals and gift certificates to different running stores. A “tin can” raffle will be on-site too that day.
“Response from the public has been wonderful,” said Pfaffenberger.

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, April 13, 2015

Oakland County CMH says more cuts to be laid on providers

Of The Oakland Press
A projected $11 million deficit at the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority has officials admitting that cuts to service providers, programs and layoffs are distinct possibilities to mitigate the shortfall.
After recently releasing some budget numbers on the projected deficit, Oakland’s authority said it is working with its provider agencies to look at reductions that could be necessary before Oct. 1, which is the beginning of the entity’s 2015-16 fiscal year.
Executive Director and CEO Willie Brooks said since 2013, a $14 million reduction in Medicaid dollars from the state, combined with an $8 million decrease in the general fund and a $7 million increase in service demand, left the agency with a $29 million budget shortfall.
After reserve money was used to reduce the deficit to $11 million, in 2015 “what happens is that the budget does not go away — it carries over into the next year. We still have that $11 million that we have to make up,” said Brooks.
Layoffs, the consolidation of providers and reductions to improve efficiency could all be on the table, Brooks said, adding he’s meeting with providers later this week to discuss the impact to those the entity serves. Some providers could potentially go out of business, he added.
Effects to residents
Tom Kendziorski, executive director at mental health advocacy group The Arc of Oakland County, said the deficit is “yet another low point” for people with mental health care issues, and for those who serve them.
The Arc, which has hosted three packed town hall meetings on the issue and has reached out to the community for action in other ways, has more than 1,000 dues paying members whose family members have some type of disability.
“With another decrease in funds, it’s going to mean less services for people with disabilities ... staff people for these service providers are essentially at minimum wage, maybe a little higher, with very little benefits,” said Kendziorski.
“If cuts continue, who wants to work for close to $8 an hour? They could make more working at their local WalMart or McDonald’s.”
Kendziorski added that the state’s Medicaid cuts are not proportional to the number of people served — and benefits provided — in Oakland County, which is about 27,000, by the mental health authority’s count. Less and less are individuals seeing community living support services, vocational training programs, transportation to those programs and residential services, he explained.
“Parents may have to shoulder more responsibility for caring for their adult children. But parents do get older, too, you know. They become 60 and 70 and can’t do what they used to do in their 30s and 40s.”
Jerry Wolffe, writer in residence and advocate at large at the Macomb Oakland Regional Center (MORC) in Clinton Township, said although he isn’t speaking on behalf of MORC, he personally believes society will regress if adequate funds aren’t seen for mental health statewide.
“You can’t cut millions of dollars and expect to provide services where the person has an optimal life,” said Wolffe.
“In these last 10 years, the rate of inflation has increased 30 percent, and funding had been chopped by millions of dollars. It leaves providers with the only option of cutting the salaries of the caregivers, who make an average of $9.06 an hour. There’s no more room to cut.”
Kendziorski agrees.
“We’re leading toward a collapse,” Kendziorski said.
“If we don’t have enough money to maintain the level of services that this generation expects ... it could mean that only the most severely disabled could be served, and the moderately impaired wouldn’t see much help, if any. That’s not a good situation.”
Kendziorski added that there is no cap on how much in reserve money the Community Mental Health Authority can use to stave off the deficit.
But Brooks said: “We can’t continue to use reserves — we’ll be out of Medicaid reserves next year at this time, at this rate.
We have to balance what’s going out to what’s coming in.”
More state cuts?
Last year, Medicaid cuts came to Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties mental health authorities to the tune of $48 million. The three regional mental health authorities cover more than 60 percent of the state’s Medicaid recipients.
The cuts came after years of assessment from the state’s Department of Community Health to reshuffle, or rebase, a new Medicaid rate across Michigan.
On top of the $14 million Medicaid dollars cut in Oakland alone, a worst-case scenario would be more cuts handed down from the state in 2016, Brooks said.
The county’s mental health authority has been working with legislators and the Department of Community Health to help the statewide division “develop a statewide solution, and understand their goal,” Brooks said.
“But at the same time, we want to maintain the infrastructure that we have here.”
Vicki Suder, the mental health authority’s director of rights and advocacy, said in 2010, the state closed the last institution for people with developmental disabilities. She said state funding is needed “to show people that they are valued members of the community, and we need to be able to support them.
“They are getting some of the basic care, not way above and beyond.”
In Macomb and Wayne, budgets seem to be balanced, barring any more state cuts, directors of each regional mental health authority recently told Crain’s Detroit.
The Detroit Wayne County Community Health Authority serves about 75,000 people, and has made reductions that have led to no projected cuts in services necessary in fiscal year 2015-16 fiscal.
The Macomb County Community Mental Health Authority said although it saw $23 million in cuts the past two years, it doesn’t expect reductions in 2016, either. It serves about 30,000 people.

DOJ: Girl can bring service dog to school

The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a Letter of Findings regarding civil rights violations by the Gates-Chili Central School District in Rochester, N.Y. The DOJ found the District has violated title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by its refusal to permit a student to bring her service dog to school unless the student's mother also provides a full-time handler. The Letter of Findings is available on DOJ's ADA website.

 For more general information on the ADA visit or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800)-514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY). 

Monday, April 6, 2015

MORC Lights it up Blue to boost awareness of autism

More than 120 blue balloons with lights inside were placed on the property of the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center in Clinton Township to highlight the Eighth Worldwide Autism Awareness Day.


Blue lights shone into the night sky as “Light It Up Blue” was celebrated worldwide, including at MORC in Clinton Township, to increase awareness of autism, a developmental disability affecting more children every year.

At the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center along 19 Mile Road between Hayes and Garfield there were 120 large balloons with lights inside on the lawn Thursday night to garner the attention of passersby to mark the Eighth Annual Worldwide Autism Awareness Day. April is also autism awareness month.

Project Director Patricia Sims Sunisloe and several other workers at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center set up the balloons in windy and rainy conditions to catch the attention of the public.

The MORC cafeteria in Clinton Township served chilled blueberry soup and gave workers and visitors Blue Moon ice cream until the supply was exhausted. At the nonprofit’s Auburn Hills office blue candy was given to help people realize the impact autism is having on America as well as the world.

There are 3.5 million people in the United States and 70 million worldwide who have autism, a term for a group of complex disorders of brain development. The disorder is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behavior, according to the nonprofit Autism Speaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1 in 68 children being born today have autism. The number for newborn boys is higher with the rate being being 1 in 42 births. It costs about $60,000 a year to provide treatment for each child with autism, the Website Autism Speaks noted.

“We put up all the blue balloons to try and increase awareness and support those with the lifelong disability,” said Sims Sunisloe. MORC has two autism treatment center, one in Clinton Township and the other in Troy. “Therefore I felt we had an obligation to join with people around the world to ‘Light It Up Blue,’” said Sims Sunisloe.

Since 2000, the number of children born with autism has increased 119.4 percent, or more than double, according to the CDC. Costs of treatment in the United States are estimated at between $236 billion to $262 billion a year.

“Given the rise in the increase of autism, it is important for the public to be welcoming and accepting of those with differing abilities, including autism, and to have some knowledge of autism,” said Diane Lindsay, the Director of Select and Clinical Supports at MORC, which serves 4,300 people with disabilities in southeastern Michigan.

“It’s good to increase awareness,” said Julia Whitcher, the Supports Intensity Scale Assessment Coordinator at MORC. The SIS is a tool to evaluate the type of supports an individual with a disability needs to live to his or her optimum level.

“If more people knew about autism, they’d contribute more toward research and better support for the families who have children with the disorder.”

One of the treatments for those with autism is Applied Behavioral Analysis, said Maddie Wedyke, an ABA technician who works at the Clinton Township Autism Center.

Last April, the federal government decided to pay for treatment for children from newborns to age 6. It is hoped the program will be expanded to those who are older than six.

“We try to reduce behaviors and prepare the children we are working with for school so they can be mainstreamed into regular classrooms,” said Wedyke. “We currently have 17 children receiving treatment at the Clinton center which has been open for two years.

“I’ve seen improvement in some of the children we’ve helped.

“We work on daily living skills such as brushing teeth, zipping up jackets and teaching the children to feed themselves.”

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

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rochester man shows that people with disabilities can live normal lives

Michael Johnston, who has a developmental disability and lives in a Rochester home with two other men, stands between two of his caregivers, Christina Fields (left) and Amanda Atkins. Photo by Jerry Wolffe
Michael Johnston, an energetic young man who loves people and is generous with hugs and sharing smiles, is living a life many would envy.
He loves his job at the Kroger store in Rochester where he works 16 hours a week doing maintenance.
Johnston also likes going to the malls and spends time in his room at the Rochester home where he lives with two other men who have developmental disabilities.
“I like working at Kroger’s,” Johnston said. “I work from 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Friday and can spend the money on the things I like.”
He has a job coach at the grocery store where he works near Silver Bell and Adams. He cleans bathrooms, a worker rest area and vacuums in the store. He hardly ever calls in sick and has worked at Kroger’s for seven years.
Johnston has been living in the Rochester home for 14 years and previous to that at a home in Ortonville for four years since he was born with a cognitive impairment.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Mary Malone, a Macomb-Oakland Regional Center’s support coordinator, suggested Johnston’s life illustrates how things have changed for the better for those born with disabilities who used to be placed in state institutions instead of living in the community with proper supports.
“I like movies,” Johnston said. He said he has a 32-inch TV, boom box with a CD player and old-fashioned tape player in his bedroom and is a country music fan. He named Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire and Toby Keith as his favorite artists.
“I am a pretty happy guy,” Johnston said as he reached to give a hug during an interview. “I love going into the community. I like to visit and help others.”
He has “one-on-one” with a caregiver when he can go and do whatever he likes. Often, he said he visits Wal-Mart or visits Yates Cider Mill.
“He’s very friendly,” said Malone. “He loves to give hugs. He always makes people feel good and gives compliments. When someone is having a bad day, he helps lift his or her spirit with his sense or humor or inquisitiveness,” she said.
“Other people tell me I’m funny,” said Johnston who smiled when he spoke of attending a recent dance.
After work, Johnston takes a nap since he wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to get to work on time. After work, he showers and helps prepare dinner.
“He’s known for his neatness and being organized,” said Malone as Johnston tidied up some scattered paperclips on a desk.
“Some day, somehow it’s going to happen that people with disabilities are going to be able to work,” Johnston said. “Just because you have a disability and use a wheelchair, you can work and have friends and enjoy things.”’

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