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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ukrainians visit Oakland, Macomb to learn to better lives of disabled

Doctors, educators and disability advocates from the Ukraine will spend a day at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center during a two-week trip to the Macomb County area to learn the most advanced techniques in helping those with disabilities live normal lives.

The nine-member Ukraine delegation will arrive April 9 and stay until April 23 and visit Oakland County schools to learn about “mainstreaming” or having children with disabilities attend neighborhood schools. The Ukrainians also will visit MORC’s office in Clinton Township on April 15.
“We plan to take members of the group to see one or two homes where people with disabilities live with around-the-clock caregivers,” said Jerry Provencal, the executive director of MORC, which also has offices in Auburn Hills besides the main campus in Clinton Township.
“These visitors will get a real feel to what is possible when they see people with disabilities living in regular homes and neighborhoods,” he said.
Since MORC was founded in the early 1970s, it helped close all 12 state institutions and transition some 13,000 people with disabilities and mental illness to their own homes or apartments with 24/7 care. Finding homes and jobs in the community for those with disabilities continues to this day.

International Visitors Council of Detroit, a nonprofit organization that works with the U.S. Department of State and U.S. embassies aboard, will act as a liaison for the Ukrainians and their Detroit-area counterparts in the fields of disability advocacy, said Marian Reich, Executive Director of IVC Detroit.
The Ukrainians will learn about modern rehabilitation methods and technologies developed for children with disabilities, best practices and progressive approaches to integrate them in communities, provide equal access to education and jobs, as well as raise awareness of their challenges, needs and expectations, Reich said Monday.

“We are hoping to improve the lives of those with disabilities and their families in Ukraine by letting these experts see what we do in organizations such as MORC,” Reich said.
The Ukrainians also will visit schools in Oakland County to show them the “best practices in inclusion education,” she said. “We also are showing them some of the latest technologies that help people with disabilities better adapt to their challenges.”

It is believed the results of the visit to Oakland schools and MORC will “contribute to improving quality of life of Ukrainian children with disabilities through increased coordination, advanced effectiveness, developing leadership, and enhanced information management of the Ukrainian rehabilitation system,” Reich said.

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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rule to require fed contractors to hire more people with disabilities

With a new rule taking effect this week, federal officials are looking to compel businesses to significantly increase the number of people with disabilities that they employ.

The rule requires most federal contractors to ensure that people with disabilities account for at least 7 percent of workers within each job group in their workforce, according to  of
While officials at the U.S. Department of Labor say they are not establishing a firm hiring quota for contractors, they do expect that businesses servicing the government will work toward achieving the target. Contractors that fail to meet the goal and do not show sufficient effort toward reaching the 7 percent threshold could lose their contracts under the new rule.

Disability advocates say the added pressure on federal contractors will go a long way.

“Federal contractors represent 22 percent of the American workforce and an aspirational 7 percent hiring goal means the rule will create real jobs, at all levels of seniority, for Americans with disabilities,” said Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Perriello said he expects that the government’s new requirement for contractors will ultimately have a ripple effect throughout the economy, with the potential to “transform employment opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Under the rule, businesses with at least 50 employees and $50,000 in federal contracts must take specific steps surrounding recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination, all designed to up employment of those with disabilities. Similar steps are already required to promote inclusion of women and minorities in the workplace.

The changes could mean up to 585,000 jobs for people with disabilities within the first year alone, the Labor Department said last year when the rule was finalized.

The plan has faced opposition from some businesses and was challenged in court by the construction industry trade group, Associated Builders and Contractors. Just last week, however, a judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the Labor Department rules paving the way for them to be implemented on schedule.

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, March 24, 2014

Microbusinesses show varied talents of those with disabilities

Dozens of entrepreneurs showcased their microbusinesses at the “Champions for Achievement” event at the Troy Community Center, demonstrating that people with disabilities would rather work than be jobless.

Microbusiness owners set up tables at the center Friday, March 21, to bring awareness to one of the more recent innovations to earn money for those with disabilities, who face a 50-percent-plus unemployment rate.
Attorney Charlie Langton from Fox 2 Detroit was emcee at the event which was sponsored by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Community Living Services, and the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority.

“I was very surprised to see so much talent,” Langton said. “To see what these microbusiness owners do and their positive attitudes is amazing. It’s hard when you have a disability to make it but these people are a good example for all of us.”
Joseph Lutzky, the proprietor of Moose’s Lodge and Pet Services, earns money by walking dogs, cleaning up their waste from yards or keeping a pet overnight for those who might go on vacation.

“This is my whole life,” said Lutzky, of Ferndale noting he gets most of his new business from word of mouth or at his Webpage of
Valerie C. Kashubara, 31, of West Bloomfield, has been selling Avon products since she started her business in 2010. “The time has gone by so quickly I can hardly believe it.” She likes selling Avon because “I can do as much or little as I want.” She can be reached at

Ryan Dupuis, 26, of Royal Oak, owns “Made by Ryan,” a business in which he sells his paintings. His style was abstract with a great explosion of coordinated colors on his canvasses. He also makes dog leashes and collars which range in price from $10 to $20 depending upon size.
Elizabeth Martin, of Beverly Hills, operates “Elegant Designs” which includes a great variety of pottery such as serving platters to art work in the shape of rectangles, hearts, and starfish and also makes baby clothes. Martin works 25 to 30 hours a week creating her products.

Jaideep Hans, 35, of Rochester Hills, displays his artwork at various venues and opened his “Jay’s Reflections” three years ago. Those who work with him says he finds art to be a way of calming and refocusing himself.
Ricky Bledsoe, 28, of Warren, owner of DJR Productions LLC of Warren, entertained the business owners and visitors by using a complex computer/sound system to play music. “It’s to help make people happy,” Bledsoe said of his enterprise.

He provides music through DJR to all types of events over the Internet and can be hired by visiting his Website at Bledsoe, known as “DJ Ricky,” has a huge selection of all types of music since he has a terabyte of selections on various computer drives. Money he earns he puts back into the business, he said.
Amie Kupovits of Walled Lake opened “Amie’s Avon” in 2010. She sells Avon in Macomb and Oakland counties. With tears in her eyes, she said her business “gives me a whole new life and I really appreciate everything.”

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, March 20, 2014

Must enroll in Healthy Michigan by April 1

Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Community Health Thursday announced that the state’s Healthy Michigan Plan is prepared to begin accepting applications on April 1, 2014, ultimately providing healthcare coverage to nearly half a million more Michigan residents.

“This is a significant step in our ongoing efforts to ensure the health and wellbeing of all Michiganders,” Snyder said in a press release. “A healthier Michigan is an important part of our state’s continued comeback. It will help improve health and quality of life, save money for taxpayers and job providers and boost our economy. I appreciate the support of our legislative partners in this initiative and the tremendous work of our departments of Community Health, Human Services and Technology, Management and Budget to help ensure all systems are go and there’s a smooth enrollment process. I encourage eligible residents to mark the date and go online, call or visit a local DHS office on or after April 1.”

The Healthy Michigan Plan was signed into law by the governor on Sept. 16, 2013. Since then, MDCH staff has worked closely with the federal government and Michigan partners to get the necessary information technology, federal approval, and program operations in place.

Beginning April 1, Michigan residents will be able to apply for the Healthy Michigan Plan online, by phone, or in person at their local Michigan Department of Human Services office to quickly and easily determine if they are eligible.

In the first year, the Healthy Michigan Plan is anticipated to cover 320,000 Michiganders, eventually providing care for 470,000. The plan emphasizes personal responsibility and beneficiaries will be required to share in the costs. There also will be incentives for individuals to take responsibility for their lifestyle choices and to maintain or improve their health. Applicants for the Healthy Michigan Plan must be between the ages of 19-64, not currently eligible for Medicaid, not eligible for or enrolled in Medicare, and earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $16,000 for single person and $33,000 for a family of four).

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Friendship Circle helping give away adaptive bikes in time for spring


In case you missed it Friendship Circle launched the Third Annual Great Bike Giveaway, a contest that gives adaptive bikes from a number of different Adaptive Bike Companies to children with special needs.

As of March 18, the Friendship Circles has given away 68 bikes and hopes to give away 100 bikes before the contest ends next week.

If your child could use an adaptive bike enter the contest. All you need is 50 nominations to qualify for the drawing. Even if you don’t win there are some very caring individuals who may surprise you. Get started at

Please consider making a donation that will add more bikes into the Great Bike Giveaway and give more children the chance to have the feeling of pride, freedom and independence that comes with receiving your bike. You can donate at Every Dollar Helps.

Friday, March 14, 2014

U-M School gets $2 million gift to improve dental care to disabled

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry will create a clinic where patients with special needs will receive dental and health care services in the same facility from providers representing multiple disciplines, thanks to a $2 million gift from the Delta Dental Foundation, the U-M announced Friday (3.14.2014).

U-M will use the funds to create the Delta Dental of Michigan Integrated Special Care Clinic, where patients with special needs can access dental and other treatment services from multiple health care disciplines in the same location.

This special clinic will improve health care access and convenience for patients with developmental disabilities, cognitive impairments, complex medical problems, significant medical limitations, veterans with PTSD, and the vulnerable elderly. In addition, U-M dental, dental hygiene and graduate students will learn how to assess and manage the needs of these patients.

The clinic’s unique delivery model is designed so dental students and faculty, as well as colleagues from other U-M health science schools and colleges, will provide care together. This interdisciplinary approach — believed to be the first of its kind in Michigan — will allow clinicians to more effectively serve this special patient population with the goals of enhancing access to, and improving the quality of, care.

“Appointments in our comprehensive care clinics may require two or three hours, something that can be difficult for patients with special needs,” said Dr. Stephen Stefanac, U-M senior associate dean and clinical professor of dentistry. “Patients in our new clinic will be assigned to a faculty member who will expedite care with the help of an interprofessional team representing dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and social work. Staff will be available who are experienced working with caregivers and patients with special needs. Quality care delivered with sensitivity and compassion is our primary goal.”

Dr. Laurie McCauley, dean of the School of Dentistry, thanked the Delta Dental Foundation for its generous gift. “We are very grateful to Delta Dental Foundation,” she said. “This gift will help us provide services to a group of patients whose access to oral health care is limited. Equally important,” she continued, “is the training our dental, dental hygiene and graduate students will receive here at the University of Michigan – they will be even better prepared to treat this group of patients in a private practice environment or in public health facilities after they graduate.”

The School provides oral health care to patients as a part of its dental and dental hygiene education programs. This past year, more than 130,000 patient visits took place in the School’s 14 clinics. That number included about 12,000 new patients who sought comprehensive dental care.

The new clinic will be built in existing space in the U-M School of Dentistry. It will have a cluster of treatment rooms of sufficient size to accommodate patients in wheelchairs, caregivers and healthcare professionals. There will also be two fully enclosed “quiet rooms.”

The design phase for the new clinic is already under way.

Dr. Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, associate dean and clinical professor of dentistry, said the gift from Delta Dental Foundation reinforces a new Council on Dental Accreditation standard. All graduates are required to be competent in assessing the treatment needs of patients with special needs and to be able to effectively manage the oral health care of those patients, while collaborating effectively with other members of the health care team.

Murdoch-Kinch said “interprofessional team-based care” has been shown to improve patient care outcomes, especially for patients with complex needs. “Increasingly, oral health care will become integrated into the overall care of patients, provided by teams of health professionals including the dental team, nurses, physicians, pharmacists and social workers, with the common goals of providing patient-centered, holistic healthcare.”

The gift represents the largest grant ever awarded by the Delta Dental Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental operations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina. This gift counts toward the Victors for Michigan campaign currently underway at the U-M. The School of Dentistry is a part of this important fundraising initiative.

“The Delta Dental Foundation is thrilled to partner with prestigious institutions and professionals in science, academia and the dental profession to develop new care models and cutting-edge approaches to improving access to dental care for all people, especially populations with special needs,” said Delta Dental Foundation Director Teri Battaglieri. “We are extraordinarily proud of this association with the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.”
About the Delta Dental Foundation
The Delta Dental Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization established in 1980, which serves as the philanthropic arm of Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina. The Foundation’s goals are to support education and research for the advancement of dental science, and to promote the oral health of the public through education and service activities, particularly for those with special needs. For more information, visit
About the School of Dentistry
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care, and community service. General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the School to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan. Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia, and public agencies. Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide. For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Man with disabilities starts bottle collection business


With every can or bottle he collects and returns, Tyler Laviolette of White Lake takes a step closer to fulfilling the dream of his parents who wanted him to live a normal and productive life despite odds of less than 20 percent he would even survive.

Laviolette, 21, started Tyler’s Bottle Service last August by posting fliers in the neighborhood. Since that time, his business has expanded to include customers in Milford, White Lake, Commerce, Highland and Waterford townships, Wixom in Oakland County, Livonia in Wayne County, and a Brighton church in Livingston County.

Laviolette, who was born with cerebral palsy and has autism, graduated from Lakeland High School in 2011 but was unable to find a job.

However, his mother, Rhonda Gelstein, said doctors gave her son less than a one-in-five chance of surviving after he was worn with cerebral palsy and autism.

“I racked my brain” to think of a business Tyler could start” so he could be gainfully employed doing something he enjoyed. He always liked to put the cans in the return machines, she said.

When Laviolette was born, he weighed one pound, five ounces, Gelstein said, adding he was in acute care for 100 days.

She said “years ago” when Tyler was a high school senior “we visited a post-secondary program” for students with disabilities. Under the law, students with disabilities are entitled to go to public school until age 26.

“… I came home, called into work and said I wouldn’t be in for the rest of the day, and cried,” Gelstein said. “What I saw was horrifying to me. These great adults were not having their potential reached and they were being merely babysat. I said to my husband, ‘I’ll create a program if I have to before I put my son in something like that.’”

“Little did I know that God was going to take me at my word,” she said in reference to the enlightening moment when her son’s business was conceptualized.

“I am doing great,” Laviolette said.

He receives community living supports in the form of a driver, John Glenn, of Waterford Township, who takes him to pick up bottles and cans 15 hours a week. Laviolette then takes them to the stores and puts them in the machines and receives a dime for each. Some customers let him keep all the money from the returns. Between October through the end of December, he has returned about 12,000 bottles and cans, Laviolette said.

He is seeking approval for an additional 10 hours of driving assistance so he can work 25 hours Monday through Friday and expand his business.

“It’s work but people go to work and I can take care of their cans,” he said. “I am a success now. I’m not going to stop because I’ve made some money.”

He plans to go to race car events and a Tigers’ ball game with his father, Bryan Laviolette, with some of the money he earns.

His biggest haul was “more than 1,000 cans and bottles in 10 huge black bags,” said Laviolette, who has a brother, Logan, who is attending Michigan Technological University.

“The community has been amazing,” said Gelstein of the response of customers and people who responded to the original fliers announcing Tyler’s Bottle Service. “They were complete strangers to us and now they are spreading the word. In fact, at Christmas Tyler received gifts from some of his customers. He tells everyone about his business. It’s done wonders for his self-esteem.”

Her vision of her son’s future is to “be on his own with a roommate or two and structuring his life just like any of us do,” Gelstein said.

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, March 7, 2014

Raising minimum wage will save Michigan some $200 million a year

The Center for American Progress found that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 it would reduce government spending in Michigan on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $205.4 million, according to a 37-page report released (Friday).

The report also showed at least 110,000 Michiganders would no long need to rely on the program with a $10.10 per hour minimum wage. The state’s current minimum wage is $7.40 an hour or

 “When we look at the impact that raising the minimum wage would have here, we know that there's nearly one million, if not more, people that will be directly impacted or indirectly impacted,”  said Frank Houston, a member of the Raise Michigan Coalition which seeks to raise Michigan’s minimum wage through a ballot initiative.

 "About 640,000 of those are minimum wage workers, but it’s also the people who are being supported by those workers who are heads of households,” he said. “We have over 341,000 children that are being supported by minimum wage workers.”

A higher minimum wage would have a significant impact on reducing poverty and give people a fighting chance to make ends meet, Houston said.

Nationally, and based on 2012 data, the report says an increase in the minimum wage would save taxpayers nearly $4.6 billion per year, equivalent to 6.1 percent of SNAP expenditures in 2012, the last year for which data are available. During a 10-year period, the estimated savings amount to nearly $46 billion.

"Right now, our economy isn't working for everyone," said Ben Olinsky, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.

“Michigan's economy is stacked in favor of those at the top at the expense of everyone else. Raising the minimum wage will help provide Michiganders an economy that works for everyone and not just the wealthy few. Our report shows that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 means that between 110,000 to upwards of 129,000 Michigan residents will no longer need SNAP benefits, saving $205.4 million annually."

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

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Celebrate the achievements of those with disabilities

With March being Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, an event is planned in Troy to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit and talents of people with disabilities.

The “Champions for Achievement Celebration” was scheduled for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 21 at the Troy Community Center. Charlie Langton of Fox 2 News and WWJ-AM will emcee the free event.

“This is to celebrate the achievements and entrepreneurship of people with disabilities,” said Lindsay Calcatera, the manager of development and communications at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, a non-profit with offices in Clinton Township and Auburn Hills.

“It will showcase many of the microbusinesses supported by the sponsoring agencies and the diverse array of products they have to offer,” she added noting about 30 vendors were expected to be in attendance.

In addition, there will be a talent show, she said. The event was sponsored by MORC, Community Living Services, and the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority.

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



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This weekend we all lose an hour of sleep as DST returns

Just a Reminder:

Daylight Savings Time starts this Sunday, March 9, and ends on Sunday, Nov. 2


While we are all focused on springing ahead an hour, there are things that come to mind that we can do to have a safer, healthier, and HAPPIER SPRINGTIME!

 Be aware of the weather:

 Spring weather can be unpredictable. When severe weather hits unexpectedly, the risk of injury and death increases, so planning ahead makes sense. Prepare for storms, floods, and tornadoes as if you know in advance they are coming, because in the spring, they very likely will.

 Make your home safe from fires:

ü  Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors – Install UL approved smoke detectors on every level of your home. Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly to make sure they are working.  Change batteries twice a year - at “fall back” and “spring ahead” time changes.

ü  Fire Extinguisher – Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and other areas of your home.  Periodically check the gauge on the extinguisher to make sure that it is fully charged.

ü  Develop a fire escape plan for your home.  Identify two escapes routes from each room and have a place to meet outside your home.  PRACTICE the fire escape plan with your family.

Tips about spring cleaning:

ü  Ladders – If you need to climb, use a ladder (not a chair, table or box).

ü  Make sure rungs are sturdy and dry before using a ladder.

ü  Before using a ladder outdoors, choose a location that is at least 10 feet away from all power lines.  Coming in contact with live wires can be fatal.

ü  Always face the ladder when climbing, and wear slip-resistant shoes.

ü  Keep your body centered on the ladder and gauge your safety by your belly button.  If your belly button passes beyond the side rail of the ladder, you are OVERREACHING and at risk for falling.

Lawn and garden safety:

ü  Service lawnmowers and power tools before using them.

ü  Wear proper clothing and protective equipment:

o   Closed-toe shoes with non-slip soles when mowing.

o   Wear eye protection when mowing, using weed whackers/powered equipment.

o   Don’t wear loose clothing that could be caught in moving parts.

o   Wear ear plugs/muffs when using noisy power equipment.

Here’s to springing ahead safely!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Macomb-Oakland Regional Center Board Meetings for FY 2014

FY 2014


Board Packets
Pre Board Meeting Conference Call
Board Meeting
First Quarter
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Monday, February 17th, 2014
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
Second Quarter
Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
Monday, May 12th, 2014
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Third Quarter (Annual Meeting)
Monday, September 15th, 2014
Friday, September 19th, 2014
Tuesday, September
23rd,  2014
Fourth Quarter
Wednesday, December 3rd , 2014
Monday, December
8th , 2014
Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Annual Audit
Wednesday,  January 7th , 2015
Monday, January 12th, 2015
Thursday, January 15th, 2015


Note 1:  Board meetings start at 5 p.m. with pre-board conference calls starting at 11 a.m.


Note 2:  MORC senior management will send Board members a packet of information with a draft of the financial statements and other items for discussion.  Pre Board meeting conference call is for discussion of draft financial statements and any other Board issues.


Note 3: The Annual Meeting will be held at the Clinton Township offices

March is Developmental Disabilities Month

In honor of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, Community Living Services (CLS), Macomb Oakland Regional Center (MORC), and Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority (OCCMHA) are hosting the Third Annual Champions for Achievement Celebration, applauding ability, advancement, and advocacy.

More than 35 microenterprise business owners will have the opportunity to showcase and sell their impressive array of products and services from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on March 21 at the Troy Community Center, 3179 Livernois Road in Troy, a northwesterly Detroit suburb.

This celebration of entrepreneurial spirit, hosted by Charlie Langton of Fox 2 News and WWJ Radio, recognizes Oakland County residents with developmental disabilities who have attained their goals to own and operate a business.

The afternoon festivities also will include talented performances, food and refreshments, and a photo booth.
For more information about OCCMHA call (800) 341-2003 or visit or Jerry Wolffe, the writer-in-residence/advocate-at-large at MORC at (586) 263-8950.