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Lobby to avoid Closure of Large Group Homes and Worksites | DDadvocates.com

These have been difficult times for persons in the Michigan Mental Health System with the threat of even more challenging issues and risks ahead of us. As an advocate, I am concerned about the over all viability of the system:

  • Health and safety issues
  • Reductions in services to clients resulting from provider payment reductions when there is no corresponding State reduction
  • The recent reports of a licensed AFC six person home in Northville at which over the past year there have been 21 police reports, one resident was beaten by staff and a second was arrested for home invasion. Despite multiple State investigations, the home was not closed until after the Free Press Articles. www.freep.com (July 5 and 11).
  • Impending drastic cuts to all non- Medicaid services due to the Michigan Senate position on the General Fund budget (no new revenues and across the board cuts).
  • Threats to cut the State Medicaid match
  • The huge turn over in the upcoming election and the potential impact it will have on our programs

So, with all of these concerns, I was surprised to see the Michigan ARC formally requesting Janet Olszewski of the Department of Community Health to limit any new group homes with over 6 beds, and eventually eliminate existing homes with 7 or more persons. See page 3 of the letter from Don Hoyle and others http://ddadvocates.com/ . The letter has similar intent as the “Vision Statement” which was recently put forth by the CMH/State Standards Committee which was advocated closing “congregate” (ie. large) residential and vocational settings.  We understand the evacuation of existing homes would impact over 1200 persons state wide. There is no mention in either of these documents about the impact on persons who CHOOSE to remain in these settings, or the significant INCREMENTAL COST related to FORCED downsizing.  (The per capita cost of a two person apartment can be several times that of a 16 person home). While cost should not be the major consideration, these proposals come  at a time when many counties are facing waiting lists and the state is on the verge of bankruptcy.

My family and I have been well served by the local ARC’s – they provide athletic, social, recreational programs, advocacy, advice, and support navigating the mental health system.  BUT, we do not agree with these recommendations!

The principle of ‘least restrictive environment’ can NOT be de-linked from those of self-determination and choice. Our daughter lives in a two bedroom apartment; she has many friends living in larger homes (15 or 16 persons). She does not want to live in a large home, and at this point in their lives, many of her friends (and their families) do not want to live in an apartment. Many of her friends are supported by Community Opportunity Center. COC consistently makes residents and their families aware of the whole spectrum of housing options in the community and supports movement to other settings when chosen by the residents and their families.

What is important is that clients have CHOSEN to live in the larger settings and that there are viable, attainable options either with COC or other providers when and if they choose to move to a smaller environment. People are living where they want (and can afford) and doing what they can and what they are interested in doing.

Repeating My Opinion from our last Newsletter

Some of the above dialogue has to do with the existence of sub-standard programs and services and their potential link to the size of the facility or program. It’s my experience that regardless of size (two persons or sixteen) great programs require

  • Good staff
  • Motivated administration
  • Adequate funding.

It is my opinion that especially under the State’s current fiscal condition we advocates at every level need to be spending our energy aggressively supporting our good staff, administrators and providers (regardless of size) and weeding out any of those that fail or neglect their clients. This will be more quality effective and cost effective than setting arbitrary limits on size.

Please contact Janet Olszewski  <norris@michigan.gov>

Department of Community Health

Lewis Cass Building

Lansing, Mi 48909.

Ask her to

  • prioritize quality assurance in all residential and vocational programs (both large and small)
  • not dismantle existing high quality residential and vocational programs which you value—tell your story –what program and why it is important.

During these difficult times it is important that you also express these concerns to your state representative, and senator and your county commissioner. Copy them on your note to Janet Olszewski. Tell them about the residential and vocational programs you value and ask them to support quality residential and vocational programs regardless of size.You can find contacts at  http://ddadvocates.com/resources/

If you will copy ddadvocates @gmail.com, we will, with your permission, post your story to our web site.

So there is no misunderstanding, I am a long time board member of Community Opportunity Center which supports 3 large residential facilities and several smaller homes and apartments in Wayne County. I have a bias, but I also have enough  experience to recognize  what works and what doesn’t.

Thanks and keep up the good work!

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One Response to “Lobby to avoid Closure of Large Group Homes and Worksites”

  1. Sandra Keirnan says:

    Hi Ed,
    Thanks for the support. Many of us in Ottawa County have been feeling alone on this issue. I agree that the quality of staffing and housing is of the utmost importance, and that the choice of an individual should dictate the type of living situation they have. It is all too true that revenues are being slashed and services/supports are now difficult to put in place. The future outlook is bleaker still, and I – speaking as both parent and advocate – am gravely concerned that if individuals are forced to live and work only in inclusive community settings we will see many people with no jobs, no peer relationships, and little to no services. My son loves participating in Special Olympics, and works both in a community setting where he is the only person with an identifiable disability and also in a setting with others having disabilities. He loves both jobs! I can also speak for him to say that he would not want to live alone i.e. independently, because he is very social and wants to be around other people. And his choice for a room mate is his friend…with a disability! The movement to force total inclusion on everyone, no matter what their views, is as bad as the forced segregation that used to exist.

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