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Friday, January 29, 2016

Southfield nonprofit wins grant to help identify and treat those with Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Michigan has won a three-year, $​800,000​ federal grant to help caregivers identify people with disabilities who develop the degenerative memory condition.
The Southfield nonprofit will work with several other nonprofits with the goal of training some 2,000 caregivers and providers of services to those with disabilities in an effort to “make people (with the dual diagnoses) feel safer and give them a sense of dignity,” said Elizabeth Fritz-Cottle.
She is the development manager at the Alzheimer Association - Greater Michigan chapter who wrote the grant approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The ultimate vision is to make sure that people with developmental disabilities and Alzheimer’s can live in their home safely and with a good quality of life,” she said.
The partners and their constituents, including direct care staff and family members, ​are to be trained with the hope that the curricula and training are absorbed and used within agencies for years to come, Fritz-Cottle said.​
About 11 percent of Americans older than 65 have Alzheimer’s, she said, adding that those affected include 19,000 in Oakland, 14,000 in Macomb and 26,000 in Wayne counties.
The collaborators include JARC of Farmington Hills, Community Living Centers, Inc., of Farmington, Community Living Services of Wayne and Oakland, the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center of Clinton Township and Auburn Hills, Neighborhood Services Organization and the Wayne Center, ARC of Northwest Detroit, Angels’ Place of Southfield and a consulting-evaluation​ firm.
Basic signs of Alzheimer’s can include behaviors that limit social skills such as a lack of interaction with others, difficulty completing a familiar task such as dressing or recognizing familiar places and people, said Fritz-Cottle.
“We’ve already started the initial collaboration with our partners,” she said, noting three staff members from the association have been tasked with training. “We are determining what kinds of training will be most effective.”
Training time and the number of training sessions will vary from agency to agency, Fritz-Cottle said.
One of the partners, MORC, is starting the training on March 11 for MORC staff, direct support professionals, families and any other interested caregivers, said Diane Lindsay, director of Clinical Operations.
“It is my hope that this training will enable us to better serve individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia,” Lindsay said. “The training is intended to assist professionals and caregivers with identification of the symptoms, support strategies, and ways to keep people engaged in life.”
So far, she said there is enthusiasm among agencies that take care of people with disabilities to identify those with Alzheimer’s, Fritz-Cottle said.
“Every single provider we have brought to the table is passionate, committed and recognizes the need for this type of training.”
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, January 7, 2016

Trump a potential threat to those with disabilities

By JERRY WOLFFE

There Trump goes again.

Recent comments by GOP Presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump are sending shivers through the disability and mental health communities.

If Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States by some quirk of the political gods, it could, if he gets his way, mean the dismantling of the support system that allows those with disabilities and mental illness to get proper treatment and live in communities.

Trump, who leads the Republican presidential field and could head the GOP ticket in November, started off by mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who was born with a joint condition that does not allow him complete control of his limbs.

Kovaleski, who worked at many prestigious newspapers before the Times, was the victim of Trump’s ire for contradicting Trump’s recollection that “thousands of (Muslim) people” in New Jersey cheered after the 9-11 World Trade Center attack.

On the podium at a Nov. 24, 2015 campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, Trump jerked his arms all around to mimic Kovaleski’s disability.

“Now, the poor guy – you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah I don’t know what he said! I don’t remember!” Trump said as he flapped his arms before the crowd.

Kovaleski, an investigative reporter who covered Trump for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, according to the Associated Press, contributed to reporting that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.

FOX contributor, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, author, and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer was the target of Trump’s red rage after Krauthammer said Trump was a “rodeo clown.”

“I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names,” Trump said.

Krauthammer incurred a spinal cord injury that left him unable to walk.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump said the nation has a “tremendous mental health problem” that no one is addressing: “And they should be looking at mental health,” Trump said. “We should build, like, institutions for people that are sickos. We have sickos all over the place. And that’s the problem.” Was he talking about those who use guns to kill innocents or the mentally ill who face terrible stigma as it is in society.
 
What is needed is more resources devoted to diagnosis, developing more effective psychotropic medications and treatment being available for all regardless of economic status and ability to pay.

So after decades of work of arm-twisting state and federal lawmakers and agencies to shut 13 of the 16 state institutions in Michigan for those with disabilities and mental illness, Trump wants to go back to the terrible days of people spending their lives in institutions like my father’s brother Alex, who  had the same disability I do – cerebral palsy. Only by the grace of God, my parents’ courage and love did I escape the same fate when doctors urged my parents institutionalize me for “Jerry’s own good.”

Political leaders need to be more compassionate, informed, and provide adequate funding to better treat all who are ill in society. I learn this anew every day I work for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has moved tens of thousands of those with disabilities and mental illness out of institutions and into the community so each can live a “normal” life.

We don’t need to build more barred institutions as Trump suggests where some lived their life, died, and were buried in an unmarked grave.

Obviously, we can’t elect anyone who has a reptilian heart and hateful mind such as Trump who will lead us back to the dark ages.

President Trump would be threat to those with disabilities

By JERRY WOLFFE

There goes Trump again.

Recent comments by GOP Presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump are sending shivers through the disability and mental health communities.

If Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States by some quirk of the political gods, it could, if he gets his way, mean the dismantling of the support system that allows those with disabilities and mental illness to get proper treatment and live in communities.

Trump, who leads the Republican presidential field and could head the GOP ticket in November, started off by mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski who was born with a joint condition that does not allow him complete control of his limbs.

Kovaleski, who worked at many prestigious newspapers before the Times, was the victim of Trump’s ire for contradicting Trump’s recollection that “thousands of (Muslim) people” in New Jersey cheered after the 9-11 World Trade Center attack.

On the podium at a Nov. 24, 2015 campaign stop in Myrtle Beach, Trump jerked his arms all around to mimic Kovaleski’s disability.

“Now, the poor guy – you’ve got to see this guy, ‘Ah I don’t know what he said! I don’t remember!” Trump said as he flapped his arms before the crowd.

Kovaleski, an investigative reporter who covered Trump for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, according to the Associated Press, contributed to reporting that won the New York Times a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal.

FOX contributor, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, author, attorney, and psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer was the target of Trump’s red rage after Krauthammer said Trump was a “rodeo clown.”

“I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names,” Trump said.

Krauthammer incurred a spinal cord injury as a young man in a diving accident that left him unable to walk.

In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Trump said the nation has a “tremendous mental health problem” that no one is addressing: “And they should be looking at mental health,” Trump said. “We should build, like, institutions for people that are sickos. We have sickos all over the place. And that’s the problem.” Was he talking about those who use guns to kill innocents or the mentally ill who face terrible stigma as it is in society?
 
What we need is more money spent to better diagnose those with mental illness, increased research into effective medications for those with m.i. and treatment available to those in need. 

But after decades of work of arm-twisting state and federal lawmakers and agencies to shut 13 of the 16 state institutions in Michigan for those with disabilities and mental illness, Trump wants to go back to the terrible days of people spending their lives in institutions like my father’s brother Alex, who  had the same disability I do – cerebral palsy. Only by the grace of God, my parents’ courage and love did I escape the same fate when doctors urged my parents institutionalize me for “Jerry’s own good.”

Political leaders need to be more compassionate, informed, and provide adequate funding to better treat all who are ill in society. I learn this anew every day I work for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has moved tens of thousands of those with disabilities and mental illness out of institutions and into the community so each can live a “normal” life.

We don’t need to build more barred institutions as Trump suggests where some lived their life, died, and were buried in an unmarked grave.

Obviously, we can’t elect anyone who has a reptilian heart and hateful mind such as Trump who will lead us back to the dark ages.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Justice Bernstein delivers one of the 'great moments' in MORC history





By JERRY WOLFFE
(c) For MORC MATTERS


Richard Bernstein brought tears of joy and gave great encouragement to those working with people with disabilities in “a historic speech” about the challenges he overcame to be the first blind state Supreme Court Justice in the nation.

His words left about 150 staff and guests at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center greatly motivated to continue the work of giving those with disabilities a chance at a happy and purposeful life.

“He was just wonderful,” said Dr. Barry Schoenbart, director of Healthcare Infomatics, of Bernstein’s message of Dec. 17. “It was really moving, motivational and inspirational of him to thank the staff at MORC for devoting their careers to helping other people. He is a remarkable down-to-earth kind of a guy.”

Nancy Ricotta, reimbursement supervisor of Consumer Financial Affairs, said Bernstein’s words hit “a bulls-eye right in my heart. I was absolutely unprepared for that kind of a talk. I thought we were going to listen to an educated well-spoken man tell us about his career. When he talked about spiritual strength I was a goner.

“He said the words I’ve said a thousand times,” said Ricotta, whose daughter Chelsea has a disability.

When Bernstein spoke about pain and suffering and wondered if people like Chelsea will ever land upon the “peaceful shore” where she will be happy, tears swelled up in Ricotta’s eyes and she left the room for a few moments to compose herself.

“He is elegant and that’s an understatement,” she said.

Many were deeply moved by Bernstein’s understanding of disability and saying how much he appreciates the difficult work MORC workers do daily.

Jane Guy of the HIM Department said Bernstein “is a very good speaker in a spiritual way. He definitely has passion for what he believes in. He was encouraging to everyone and people like to hear that.”

Bernstein noted in his speech: “It’s not the struggles we face, but how we face them.”

He then for the first time publicly revealed discrimination he experienced earlier in his life.

After graduating summa cum laude from Northwestern University, Bernstein interviewed with legal firms hoping to land a job as an attorney. A law degree from Northwestern is prestigious and invariably a ticket to a position at a top-notch firm.

“I didn’t even get one call-back after interviewing with 65 firms on campus,” he said. “I didn’t have to interview with them but I wanted to see what it was like when one is blind and trying to get a job.”

Bernstein then went to work at his family’s Farmington Hills law firm and established a division that fought for civil rights pro bono for those with disabilities.

“I just thought he was one terrific person,” said receptionist Sue Harp. “He’s a very accomplished individual and I thoroughly enjoyed his speech.”

Kym Juntti, Training and CPLS Director, said: “I found his message inspiring and thought provoking.

"It was a good reminder for all of us to not let barriers deter us from our mission of advocacy for those who voices are often times silenced or forgotten. In a time when it seems those in power have lost touch with the daily struggles of those we serve, it is nice to know Justice Bernstein has the courage, experience and wisdom to remind them.”

MORC Executive Director Gerald Provencal said Bernstein’s presentation “was truly one of the great moments in the long history of MORC fighting for rights for those with disabilities.

“Bernstein’s speech reminded us that this work is not labor, not employment. It is a gift and we should accept it as such,” Provencal said.

“We have an opportunity to make life whatever we chose to make it. And, that is also the case for the people we work for who count on us.

“Justice Bernstein left the audience not just thrilled with him being there and motivated by his speech but we were reminded there is a great challenge in front of each of us – a challenge we should treasure and make us all better for accepting that challenge.”