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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pioneer in fighting for services for disabled dies

Joseph R. Erwin, a resident of Commerce Twp., and a pioneer in obtaining services for children with developmental disabilities, has died after a long illness. He was 82.
Erwin, a native of Birmingham, Ala., died on July 29. He is survived by his wife, Betty, and his sons, Bradford and Joey Erwin.
Funeral services will be held at Bessemer Brown Service Funeral Home in Bessemer, Ala. at a date to be determined.

Erwin and his wife, Betty, were a team that “has given so much on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said John Torrone, former public relations director at Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has offices in Auburn Hills and Clinton Township.

While their goal was to retire in the South, they decided that they could not because the services for their son Joey were so bad compared to services he was receiving in Michigan.

Together, the Erwins devoted themselves to becoming advocates for all those receiving services. For many years, they served together on the AMORC Board of Directors -- Joe as president and Betty as secretary.

Joe set the bar high for AMORC and lobbied hard for pay increases for direct care workers. Erwin also talked to legislators, community mental health boards, and others to win greater services for those with developmental disabilities in the state. Because of his efforts, direct care workers received several pay increases.

As part of the AMORC Monitoring Committee, the Erwins actively monitored group homes, Torrone said.

They also encouraged other AMORC monitors to also monitor homes on behalf of Recipient Rights for the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority. The husband and wife and other AMORC monitors received special training in recipient rights for those with disabilities who received services from various agencies.

The Erwins were involved for years on the MORC Citizens Advisory Panel. Joe was also involved with Oakland County CMH Authority's Citizen's Advisory Committee.

Erwin also was on the Board of Directors for The Futures Foundation, the fund-raising entity of MORC. He also was chairperson of the MORC, Inc. Holding Company Board of Directors until he became ill.  For years Erwin was chairperson of the Springhill Housing Authority.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Futures Foundation. The web site is

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



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