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Monday, October 26, 2015

Legislation would OK mental illness treatment before incident occurs


Family and friends would be permitted to get mental health treatment for a person close to them before an unfortunate incident under legislation passed by the House.

In 2004, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed "Kevin's Law" in honor of Kevin Heisinger, who was beaten to death in a Kalamazoo bus/train station by a man with schizophrenia who stopped taking his medication.

Current law allows judges to order involuntary assisted outpatient treatment, but only after a major incident occurs.

Under HB 4674, which passed 103-2, sponsored by Rep. Tom Leonard III (R-DeWitt Township), a family member or friend would be allowed to petition the court and allow judges to order outpatient treatment for those who have had their mental illness confirmed by a physician, all without a crime being committed.

"This reform is sorely needed because current law makes it very difficult for people who might not recognize the severity of their situation to obtain the treatment they need," Leonard said in a statement. "In the same vein, we must guarantee individuals' due process rights are protected by providing legal counsel to guide them through the court process if they believe (assisted outpatient treatment) AOT is not necessary. This protects both the public safety and the privileges of the individual."

Supporters have said under current law (passed about a decade ago), a crisis needs to occur before intervention could happen, and communities have been confused by the complexity of "Kevin's Law" and it hasn't been used often.

"We must make public safety - including the well-being of the individual in need of care - a priority in this type of situation, but also ensure that their rights remain protected. This legislation strikes that delicate balance."  Leonard said. "I want to thank Lt. Gov. Calley for bringing this issue to my attention, and for the strong leadership he has shown working to protect our state's most vulnerable citizens."

HB 4674 does the following:

·         Offers early intervention, since current law requires a serious incident that might endanger public safety to occur before AOT may be requested;

·         Simplifies the process of seeking court-appointed treatment; and

·         Allows a judge to order AOT before an incident has occurred that could cause injury to the prospective patient or a member of the public.

The measure has been referred to committee on Health Policy for further consideration.

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, October 23, 2015

Medicaid eligibility for those working who have disability changes

Credit: Mark Tower who covers local government for MLive/The Saginaw News.

 LANSING -- Any disabled Michigan resident denied Medicaid eligibility in the past because of their income level should recheck their eligibility, a state senator advises, according to a report in MLive.

Republican State Sen. Jim Stamas of Midland issued a press release reminding constituents of a change to eligibility requirements in Michigan's "Freedom to Work" program that took effect on Oct. 1.

The program, first developed in 2003, helps protect disabled Medicaid recipients who choose to work from losing access to health benefits.

Stamas said recent reforms to the program have changed what it takes to be eligible to participate, encouraging anyone rejected in the past to contact their local Department of Health and Human Services office to check if the changes impact their eligibility.

"Many Michigan residents with disabilities may now be able to receive medical assistance after a reform to the program's eligibility requirements went into effect earlier this month," Stamas said.
To be eligible for the Michigan Freedom to Work program, a resident now must:
  • Be working
  • Have a disability
  • Be between the ages 16 and 65
  • Have a total income at or under 250 percent of the federal poverty guideline
  • Have individual assets that do not exceed the Medicare Savings Program limit
Both the income level and asset total requirements have changed, according to information disseminated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the DHHS, depending on a person's level of income, participants may or may not have to pay a premium for the coverage. Residents who wish to enroll in the program should contact their county DHHS office and ask about the new amended "Freedom to Work program" and "Bridges Eligibility Manual (BEM) 174."
"The goal of this program is to continue to assist those with disabilities without penalizing them for income they receive while working," Stamas said. "I encourage anyone who might meet the new requirements to contact their local human service department and check or recheck their eligibility."

-- Compiled by Jerry Wolffe, writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Gala raises $40,000 for Futures Foundation

Kensington Church received the Heart of MORC Award for its longtime volunteer service and generosity to the people served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. Kensington representatives Emilee Skinner (far left) and Margaret Humenik (far right) accepted the award October 9 at the 17th Annual “Giving Back To The Futures” Gala, held at the San Marino Club in Troy, from Futures Foundation Interim Director Lindsay Calcatera (middle left) and MORC Executive Director Gerald R. Provencal (middle right).
TROY – Nearly $40,000 was raised by the Futures Foundation for individuals with disabilities served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center at the 17th Annual “Giving Back To The Futures” Gala.
The gala was held Oct. 9 at the San Marino Club in Troy. Some 350 attendees at the annual event enjoyed dinner, live entertainment and dancing, participation in a silent auction, and raffle drawings for prizes.
The gala is the premier annual fall event for The Futures Foundation, the fundraising arm of MORC. Along with other year-round efforts, the event generates resources to provide for the needs of people with developmental disabilities.
“It was a joy filled evening,” said Jerry Provencal, MORC’s Executive Director, who plans to retire next spring after having served 50 years in the mental health field.
“From the opening strains of the jazz quartet to the announcement of the silent auction winners, it was a fun, exciting event. The video presentation was inspiring and reminded everyone of why we were there – to help realize the needs and dreams of the people we serve at MORC.”
Live music was provided by the RJ Spangler Jazz Quartet during the cocktail hour and by the Pulse band after dinner. The silent auction offered more than 60 items such as restaurant gift cards, art, electronics, outdoor/home accessories, and casino/hotel getaways.
This year’s Presenting Sponsor was Netsmart, and other major sponsors included PVS Chemicals, Nancy Tancredi, Fifth Third Bank, Gerald Provencal, Afia, New Horizons, Jewish Vocational Services, JS Clark Agency, Plante Moran, RX Specialties, and the MORC Holding Company Board of Directors.
“We couldn’t have had such an outstanding event without the critical, generous support from all of our sponsors,” said Lindsay Calcatera, Interim Futures Foundation Director.
The annual Heart of MORC Award, for exemplary service, was given to Kensington Church.
With the backing of donors and community partners, the Futures Foundation awarded over $100,000 in grants in 2014 to help fund a better quality of life for those served by MORC.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Study: Life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome increases

The life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome, the most common genetic condition, is increasing, according to a report in the Science Times.
One in every 691 babies born in the United States has Down Syndrome, according to the website of the National Down Syndrome Society.
The National Down Syndrome Society added that each year 6,000 babies are born with the condition in the United States and about 40,000 of Americans have Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome includes the presence of an extra chromosome 21, and is characterized by mild to severe mental impairment, weak muscle tone, shorter height and a flattened facial profile.

According to the doctors and experts, children born with Down Syndrome suffer from a number of problems with their organs such as hearing loss and eye cataracts. However, most of them do not experience this kind of issue but do have cognitive delays from mild to moderate, and yet, children with this condition have well-developed social skills.

Different advancements are being made to help people with Down Syndrome and their families. Screening now happens during pregnancy, which enables the mothers to identify before birth if they will have a child with the syndrome.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released recommendations for doctors to help and provide the needs of children with this condition which led to a higher detection rate and is vital to their overall health.

The local media centers have created support centers for children and families with Down Syndrome.

Our society has also changed the way individuals with disabilities are treated overall. At the same time, medical technology has been advanced, which paved the way in making the life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome.

Thus, the life expectancy of those with Down Syndrome has significantly increased, ranging from the age of 25 to 60 as of today. This was due to early intervention that improves the condition of those children, says Debra Emerson, CEO of St. Madeleine Sophie's Center of El Cajon, California.

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, October 8, 2015

Troy market selects The Arc of Oakland County for gift


TROY --   Whole Foods Market has chosen the The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. as its Community Support Day partner. On Oct. 20, the market will donate 5 percent of the day’s sales to the nonprofit.
Staff from the ARC will be in the store welcoming patrons and talking about the organization from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  Whole Foods Market in Troy is located at 2880 West Maple Road. Store hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization that provides direct legal, general advocacy, informational and referral services as well as community awareness for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
The Arc is the world’s largest community-based organization of, and for, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization exists to ensure that all individuals with disabilities are valued, and that they and their families can participate fully in, and contribute to, the life of the community.
For more information on the Community Support Day, please contact The Arc of Oakland County, Inc. at (248) 816-1900.
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 6, 2015

Voices of Disabilities: DIA opens hearts, doors to disabled, seniors and v...

Voices of Disabilities: DIA opens hearts, doors to disabled, seniors and v...:   Staff from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and some of the people who the nonprofit serves tour the Detroit Institute of Arts ...

DIA opens hearts, doors to disabled, seniors and veterans


Staff from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and some of the people who the nonprofit serves tour the Detroit Institute of Arts before trying classes to make ceramic art. / DIA/File

By Jerry Wolffe, For Digital First Media

Posted: 10/05/15, 4:17 PM EDT | Updated: 2 hrs ago

The Detroit Institute of Arts is bringing discovery, joy and art to the lives of those with disabilities, seniors, and veterans with its Community Group Program.

The program provides meaningful experiences through art with gallery tours and hands-on art making. The last class this fall for those with disabilities will be Thursday.

During September and early October, the DIA invited 15 to 18 people with disabilities who the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center serves to visit the Institute to create artworks, says Patty Sims Sunisloe, MORC’s project director.

“They are opening their doors and hearts to people with disabilities and changing lives to a great extent,” says Sims Sunisloe, who added individuals MORC serves attended classes in the Walter Gibbs educational studio on Sept. 17, 24 and Oct. 1.

The MORC attendees have made painted masks and lithographs and will frame them at their last class this week, Sims Sunisloe says. DIA spokesman Larisa Zade said the artworks from last year’s session are on display in the teaching studio.

“The DIA has been proud to partner with local social service agencies for over 20 years through the Community Group Program,” says the DIA’s Director of the Studio Program Charles Garling. “We strive for diversity in the organizations with whom we seek to partner, working to serve individuals across all ages and physical and cognitive abilities.”

Projects during the past year have been multimedia self-portraits, clay masks, drums and pots, printmaking, bookmaking and wood sculpture.

Current groups in the program besides those from MORC include veterans from the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Piquette Square for Veterans and seniors from the Hanna House, all of Detroit, according to a statement from the DIA.

“One of our goals is to help people understand that the Detroit Institute of Arts is for everyone, regardless of your abilities or background with art,” Garling says. “Through the Community Group Program, we strive to provide safe space for individuals, who might otherwise be marginalized, to explore and express through art-based discussions and art-making experiences. Year after year, program participants have happily expressed their appreciation of the program, noting an increase in their confidence and openness to communicate with others.”

To facilitate these classes, DIA teaching artists such as Byron Nemela utilize a learner-centered, process-oriented teaching practice which uses motivating questions and topics that allow participants to create something personally meaningful, Zade says.

Sims Sunisloe adds, “The feedback I consistently get from families, parents and caregivers is that this program is changing lives. We really appreciate how warm, welcoming and hospitable the staff at the DIA has been to everyone.

“The staff’s ability to find a way to reach inside those with disabilities to express their talents is something quite extraordinary,” she says. “(There are) no boundaries to their abilities to be expressive or show who they are as an individual.”

The DIA paid for materials and for transportation on a private bus from MORC facilities in Clinton Township or Auburn Hills to the DIA.

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, October 5, 2015

Sheltered workshops being phased out

DEPEW, N.Y. (WIVB)- For some, it’s the only job they’ve ever had, and only job they can get.
Every day, people with developmental disabilities show up for work at Southeast Works in Depew, N.Y. and prepare products to be sold in stores like WalMart or Office Depot. But what makes this ‘sheltered workshop’ different is that all the workers have a disability and don’t work alongside the non-disabled.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a plan to phase out sheltered workshops like this to comply with a Supreme Court ruling that ensures everyone the right to work in an integrated setting, according to a report from a Depew, New York TV station.
New York State Sen. Robert Ortt, Republican-North Tonawanda, hosted a public hearing about the issue at the University at Buffalo’s Center for Tomorrow.
Speaker after speaker tried answer the big question about what will happen to most of the clients if the State actually does close sheltered workshops, like Southeast Works in Depew, where people with developmental disabilities prepare products to be sold at WalMArt of Office Depot, but they do it for less than minimum wage.

Paying people with disabilities less than the minimum wage for working is also legal in Michigan.

“We should give them the opportunity to advance competitive employment elsewhere so that they can not just sustain themselves, but flourish.” said Jennifer Monthie of Disability Rights New York. She would rather the State programs work individually with each client to help them get jobs that are suited for them in the traditional workplace.
“You’re gonna find people that are gonna stay employed longer, they’re gonna advance in the their employment because they’re in an area where they can shine.” said Monthie.
But not all of these clients can flourish outside, like Tim Powers, who is 56 and  has a disability.

“If you offered him a one dollar bill and a five dollar bill, he wouldn’t know which one is worth more.” said his father Martin Powers. “He lives in a group home because we’re gonna die, and he has to have a place to live, and he now has a place to live and a place to work and we’ve spent our entire life working this whole process out and now you wanna say, “Nope that’s not good.” well how are we going to deal with this in the future, I don’t know.”

The State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities plans to put out guidelines in late October that will give these families a better idea of what the transition will be like as the sheltered workshops are phased out by the year 2020.