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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pontiac non-profit hires specialist to help those who are deaf

Oakland Family Services of Pontiac is establishing a new deaf specialist staff position, funded by Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority, it was announced Wednesday. Social worker Kathleen Mitchell has been hired by the private, non-profit, human services agency to assume the role of deaf specialist. Born deaf, with two deaf parents, Mitchell learned to communicate using sign language. “Deaf individuals should have direct access to culturally linguistically appropriate service providers who are skilled in American Sign Language,” said Mitchell, who will provide outpatient therapy to those who are deaf.
Special writer Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

PIHPs to receive $26.9 million in Health Michigan payments today (4.30)

The Michigan Department of Community Health Tuesday notified Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans they will be receiving an electronic funds transfer payment on Wednesday, April 30, for new Healthy Michigan members who have enrolled in the first three weeks of April. 
"We are pleased to announce this payment brings the total state General Fund and Healthy Michigan payments in April to PIHPs and Community Mental Health Authorities to a statewide total of $26.9 million and exceeds the March state General Fund and Adult Benefits Waiver payment total of $26.6 million," the MDCH said in a statement.
The payment is a full retro-eligibility payment and covers the newly eligible Healthy Michigan members enrolled after the Adult Benefits Waiver auto-enrollments for the full month of April, the MDCH said. The payment ensures maximum April capitation is received for the month in which members enroll.  The remaining April members enrolled in the final week of April will also be reimbursed for the entire month of April and will be paid in mid-May, the department said.  

The first retro payment represents the number of persons who enrolled in Healthy Michigan during the first three weeks of April in each region and is being transmitted in advance of final April enrollment to help alleviate concerns with cash flow during this time of transition. 
"We will continue to monitor enrollment and assess the need for retroactive payments on a monthly basis through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2014," the statement said.
The additional payment is an estimate and will need to be reconciled with eligibility and payment files in the future, according to the MDCH. 

It is expected that PIHPs will expedite cash flow related to these retro payments consistent with regional and CMH agreements regarding regular payments.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Officials: Snyder’s miscalculation puts services to disabled at risk

Services provided to thousands of Michigan residents with mental illness and other disabilities are in danger of being lost because of budget errors made by Gov. Rick Snyder, the association that represents Community Mental Health Boards says.

“Unfortunately, the promise to do ‘no harm’ has been broken,” said Michael Vizena, executive director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards. “Errors were made, and savings were withdrawn before sufficient ‘Healthy Michigan’ revenue was available to replace the lost revenue,” he said.

Healthy Michigan is a public health insurance plan for the 46 Community Mental Health Boards across the state. It is an expansion of Medicaid to provide physical and behavioral health care insurance coverage to nearly 500,000 Michigan citizens.

Unfortunately, more than $100 million of statewide CMH general fund support was reduced and placed into state savings as a result of the Healthy Michigan Plan being implemented April 1, the board said. This occurred before sufficient replacement funds were available from Healthy Michigan, causing projected shortfalls for 2014-2015.

OCCMHA anticipates that its expenditures for fiscal year 2014 will exceed funding provided by state and federal government by $22 million, a spokeswoman said Friday. The Authority passes on funding from state and federal core service providers.

These include Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, which provides services for more than 5,000 people with disabilities from its offices in Clinton Township and Auburn Hills; Community Network Services of Farmington Hills and Waterford; Training & Treatment Innovations of Oxford, Troy and Sterling Heights; Easter Seals Michigan which has offices in Auburn Hills and Community Living Services-Oakland of Ferndale.

Errors were made in the calculation of anticipated total savings as a result of increased Medicaid funds flowing into the state for Healthy Michigan, the board said.

“As a result, thousands of people across the state are receiving notices from their local Community Mental Health center that funding is no longer available to continue,” the Board added in a press release.

In addition, some mental health executives say many individuals served by the CMH system will not qualify for the Healthy Michigan plan.

The CMH board is projecting a full-year General Fund gap of $60 million based on full enrollment for the Healthy Michigan plan. The state recently added $25 million for Fiscal Year 2014 but the general fund gap still exists during the 12 to 18 month ramp-up period which ends in September 2015.

“The governor and the Legislature must restore the full year of the necessary general fund support for FY15 so that further and permanent reductions are not necessary,” Vizena said. “These funds must be restored as part of the FY15 budget process that will occur over the next six weeks. Community Mental Health centers and the individuals they serve need to know that resources will be there, in order to prevent a further erosion of services.”

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


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Suicide prevention forum scheduled

WATERFORD – A youth suicide prevention forum was planned from 8:30 a.m. to noon on April 30 at the Oakland Schools Summit Campus at 2214 Mall Drive East, Room 126 in Waterford.

The forum is to let the community know about resources to try and reduce the occurrence of suicide. Presenters will teach attendees about resources for schools and healthcare providers. Toolkits for parents or schools and information on mental health first aid training also will be given to those attending the session.
Go to by the end of April 23 to register for the forum.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Public offered free mental health first aid training

Box: To register for training, visit or call (586) 263-8748.
Mental Health First Aid experts will be training throughout the state, including in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties.

The sessions are to help increase literacy and reduce stigma regarding mental health problems and mental illness, said Ed Kiefer, a senior training consultant with the Center for Positive Living Supports in Clinton Township.
The center arranged for the training of members of the public after Gov. Rick Snyder declared May 18 to May 24 as “Michigan Mental Health First Aid Week.”

The free training for up to 40 will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 20, at the Auburn Hills campus of the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center at 1270 Doris Ave.
Mental health first aid is defined as the help offered to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved.

“… when someone we know is experiencing a major mental health problem we may be unsure of what to do,” Kiefer said. “We may choose to do nothing, disassociate, or communicate fear to others all of which further stigmatize the individual, their family, and our community”, said Kiefer, who also does Culture of Gentleness training, a philosophy based on building trust between a caregiver and person with a disability or mental illness so physical or chemical restraints aren’t needed.
Nearly one-in-five Americans develop a mental disorder in any one year, according to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Kiefer added,   “Mental health problems are common and unfortunately understanding how to provide initial help is not.”

Those with mental illness “could be someone very close to you,” said Kiefer. “As a Mental Health First-Aider we are conduits to care” in that those trained in the field can guide someone to the proper physicians or treatment programs.
The Michigan Mental Health First Aid Week will be supported with radio spots and a phone bank for people to call, according to Snyder’s office. The statewide goal is to train 1,500 people during the course of this week.  

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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Brown out as executive director at OCCMHA

AUBURN HILLS The Board of Directors of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority has failed to renew the contract for Executive Director Jeffrey L. Brown and appointed Chief  Financial Officer Willie Brooks as the interim executive director until a replacement is found.
The board voted unanimously not to renew the contract of Brown, who has been in the post since 2006.
The decision to name Brooks as interim director and replace Brown was “mutually agreed upon by OCCMHA Board Chair Malkia Newman; Deputy Executive Director Kathleen Kovach and Brooks,” according to a press release Friday.
“After careful consideration, Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority’s Board of Directors unanimously decided to discontinue its employment contract with Mr. Brown,” said Newman.
“As the Board moves forward in its search for a new leader whose qualifications match OCCMHA’s vision for the future, we want to assure those individuals whom we serve, including people with a developmental disability, mental health illness, substance use disorder, and children with serious emotional disturbance, that they will continue to receive uninterrupted, quality services from our core provider agencies. As always, their well-being is first on our list of priorities.”
Brooks and Kovach are working closely with OCCMHA’s leadership team to ensure that the organization continues to fulfill its administrative obligations of passing on state and federal funding to its network providers and the people it serves during this time of transition.
- Special writer Jerry Wolffe

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Public offered free mental health first aid training

In response to a declaration by the governor, mental health experts in Oakland and Macomb counties will train up to 40 people to increase their ability to help them become more aware and learn to help those showing signs of mental illness.
Gov. Rick Snyder declared May 18 to May 24 as “Michigan Mental Health First Aid Week,” said Ed Kiefer, a senior training consultant with the Center for Positive Living Supports on the campus of Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc., in Clinton Township.

The training was funded by a state grant to Treatment Innovations of Troy. It will be conducted by the Center for Positive Living from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at MORC’s Auburn Hills satellite office at 1270 Doris Ave.
“Mental health first aid is the help offered a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Kiefer. The first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis is resolved.

One-in-five Americans develop a mental disorder in any one year, according to the USA Mental Health First Aid agency.
The most prevalent disorder is anxiety, followed by substance abuse and depression, the agency says.

“We want to increase literacy and understanding of mental health problems and illness,” said Kiefer, a MORC trainer first aid program. “We are conduits to care” in that those trained in the field can guide someone to the proper physicians or treatment programs.
Those with mental illness, who often unnecessarily suffer stigma in society, “could be someone very close to you,” said Kiefer.

Latest data from The National Institutes of Health showed there were 38,364 people who lost their lives to suicide in a single year.

“If someone has a major mental health problem, people don’t know how to respond to help that person,” said Kiefer, who also uses the Culture of Gentleness philosophy in which a caregiver or health worker tries to create a bond of trust and love with the patient.
“Someone can be overtly taking care of things in his or her life and seemingly doing well but there are signs we should be aware of that they may be having mental health issues,” he said. These include isolating oneself, not interacting with friends, showing a general lack of interest and letting his or her appearance deteriorate.

“We have to try and show that person ‘we are there for you and not judging you,’” he said. “And we have to let them say whatever they want and know it’ll be OK.”
The Michigan Mental Health First Aid Week will be supported with radio spots and a phone bank for people to call, according to Snyder’s office. The statewide goal is to train 1,500 people.

Box: To register for training, visit

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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Program to help OU medical students to learn to work with disabled

JARC, an organization serving people with disabilities, has created a special educational program for second-year medical students at the William Beaumont School of Medicine at Oakland University.

The program will teach the medical students how to properly interact with those with developmental disabilities.
Approximately 60 students have gone through the program this year. The students are broken up into groups of 15 and visit JARC corporate offices in Farmington Hills for one-hour presentations once a month.

Then the students go to tour one of JARC’s homes to learn how people with disabilities live with around-the-clock care in a community setting. The students are from the class of Dr. Ernest F. Krug, III, professor of biomedical science at the medical school at OU.
The overall goal of this program is to teach the medical students ways to become better doctors in the future. They learn about the history of developmental and intellectual disabilities, how the two overlap, and most importantly, how having a disability affects a person’s life.

Eye contact with the person that has a developmental disability is stressed. Students also are taught effective ways of communicating with those with disabilities, how to be more inclusive, and how to deal with someone who is non-verbal and doesn’t want to be touched.
Students are also taught the philosophy of Gentle Teaching in which a trusting and loving rapport is developed with the person with a disability and others so the individual feels safe and cared about.

JARC, a nonprofit in Farmington Hills, serves both children and adults with disabilities in terms of housing, life planning, social inclusion, education, and recreation.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Central. He can be reached 586 263-8950.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Care program set up for those who receive both Medicare, Medicaid

The Michigan Department of Community Health Friday announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the new MI Health Link demonstration program to integrate care for individuals who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Through the new MI Health Link program, all services currently covered separately through the Medicare and Medicaid programs will be integrated into a single health care delivery model. This model will feature coordinated care for physical health, long-term care, and behavioral health services and supports. The program will also focus on increasing access to home and community-based services and enhanced quality through performance monitoring. MI Health Link will include the use of person-centered processes and promote enrollee choice in all aspects of the program.

As partners, CMS and MDCH will ensure continuity of care during the transition to the new program for those enrolled. The final agreement outlines the state and federal responsibilities in the roll-out and administration of MI Health Link. Michigan will begin working with CMS and its contractors to develop readiness review protocols and three-way contracts between MDCH, CMS and the integrated care organizations that will administer the program.

"Our primary goal with MI Health Link is to improve quality and access to care for this vulnerable group of people who currently have to navigate two very different systems in Medicare and Medicaid," said James K Haveman, Director of the MDCH. "We appreciate the federal government’s thoughtful consideration of this program and its impact on improving care for Michigan residents."

The MI Health Link demonstration program will operate for three years in four regions of the state. Regions included in the demonstration are: the entire Upper Peninsula; a region in the Southwest part of the state consisting of the following counties: Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren; Macomb as a single county region; and Wayne as a single county region.

The program will be implemented in two phases, beginning in the Upper Peninsula and the southwest region, followed by Macomb and Wayne counties in the second phase. Eight integrated care organizations were selected by MDCH to manage acute and primary care, pharmacy, dental and long-term supports and services for MI Health Link. Behavioral health services will be provided through the Michigan Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans.
Enrollment activities will begin later in 2014 for the first two regions of the program, the Upper Peninsula and Southwest Michigan. Service provision will start for individuals in these regions choosing to enroll no sooner than January 2015.

(For more information about MI Health Link, visit,4612,7-132-2939__2939__2939-259203--,00.html)
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.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I'm a Christian but intolerance toward LGBT community is evil

Why would anyone consciously "chose" to be homosexual and become a minority member of one of the most oppressed and discriminated groups in the nation? Homosexuality is not a choice just as it is not a choice to be born with a disability.
Gays do not have equal civil rights in America. They face daily discrimination in social settings as well as the workplace. While heterosexual couples can share, for example, corporate benefits of one with their wife or husband, such as medical and life insurance and pensions, gay partners cannot in most corporations.
They also don't have the automatic right to inherit the property of a partner without going through expensive and extensive legal activities to set up such provisions. And unless they've also made special arrangements beforehand they cannot go into a hospital room to be with someone they have loved, perhaps for decades, and be with them to hold his or her hand as the partner dies. Where's the agape love or compassion in that?
In America, the DOMA law is a DUMBA law and we, the people, are falling for it our of blind fear and eons of programming, often by religious heretics.
Gays, lesbians, transgender people and those who are bisexual have the right to receive all the same benefits our society gives to those who are heterosexual couples. Maybe, DOMA means Defense of Madness Act.
Certainly we don't need to populate the Earth as heterosexuals do when we already have 7 billion people on this planet with half underfed, undernourished and without adequate shelter.
I know about discrimination, isolation, being bullied and beaten, denied jobs, housing, access to buildings and looked down upon by others as being inferior because I was born with the disability of cerebral palsy in the 1940s and now use a wheelchair which has made my world smaller because most businesses in America are not following the accessibility guidelines in the Americans with Disabilities Act.They aren't doing what's right, I believe, because it costs money to make a door 32 inches wide, fix a restroom so there a turnaround space of five feet, smooth out cracked concrete or put switches for lights and heat within reach. Here we are bowing before the false god of materialism. Businesses are certainly foolish because if a person with a disability can get into a place of public accommodation he or she can spend their money which is good for the business and the person. They also will be good workers because a good job with benefits is economic freedom and the road to being part of the larger society.
At two, doctors wanted to place me in a state institution because "it would be best for all." Dad told the doctor to get screwed and "I'm going to raise Jerry to be normal."
I was denied access to an integrated public education until 1960 when I was 14 and told the principal of Osborn High School in Detroit I would not go into a room that was labeled "handicapped," a derogatory term meaning beggar or cap in hand. I suppose with that elevator key in hand and permission to leave a classroom five minutes before the bell rang for the next class we may have been among the first to be mainstreamed in a regular school.
I heard the other day that five teenagers a day kill themselves because of the personal and social torment they go through because they are gay and not heterosexual. This breaks my heart and society should offer acceptance and comfort so these young people can be comfortable with who and what they are from birth. Again, homosexuality is not a choice.
I would never have chosen to have a disability because we, as well as gays, often are outcasts in society; targets of horrific treatment, suffer great pain from our impairments and have to develop an inner spiritual strength to tolerate those who are bigots.
I was beaten so many times by bullies as a child with a disability that I didn't really trust anyone "normal" until I was able to jump in my car and get away from them. Gays, lesbians, transgender people and those who are bisexual also are beaten, some to the point of death. Homophobia has deep roots in the souls of this nation's people. Some fools think it's like a virus which just shows they are beyond ignorance.
Just as the 54 million people in America with disabilities have won civil rights during the past 40 years through the combined efforts of thousands, eventually the LGBT community also will be able to gain equal rights but it's going to be a hard battle. It must be one of non-violence, rewriting laws, and convincing some powerful fools you have the right to love who you want.
It's hard, however, to erase the image of televangelist Pat Robertson saying gays are going to hell. Robertson made $459 million last year, one report said, and I wonder how much he gave to help the poor, disadvantaged, those who face discrimination such as gays and the disabled.
Preacher Jimmy Swaggart, who lost his televangelist show a while back after being caught with prostitutes, cried and lamented, begged for forgiveness with tears running down his cheeks on TV because "I have sinned." His greater sin, I believe, is preaching against men loving men and women loving women.
In a sermon in September, 2004, Swaggart said:  "I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died." The audience laughed and clapped as God and his angels in Heaven cried.
When he stands before St. Peter at the gates of Heaven, Swaggart will be told to go to hell because you were not a good and faithful servant, but one who spread hate and threw logs on the fire of evil to perpetuate it.
Pitiful, hateful comments as these preachers should never see the light of day and always, always be challenged.
In the New King James version of the Bible Leviticus 20:13 says: "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them."
However, just before the comments on homosexuality, the Bible in Leviticus 11:9-12, it says: “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you."
So eating a shrimp or lobster is a detestable sin, according to the Old Testament. So why don't we picket outside of restaurants that serve this type of seafood and punish and ostracize those who commit this detestable sin?
It's a shame. Because of this stupidity, many gay people are turned off to religion at a time when our world needs to draw from their wisdom, courage and strength to make this world one where we will not destroy ourselves and love one another more just as Christ, Buddha, and Muhammad, among other great souls, taught us.
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.