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DDadvocates.com |  DDA of MI

DDA of MI

Effective March 30, 2011 ddAdvocates of Michigan is pleased to announce it’s participation in a coalition of advocates under the umbrella name DD Advocates MI. The press release announcing the inital coalition follows. It is the intention of the coalition to establish network co ordinators in each county and to recruit spokespersons for persons of all ages and levels of ability throughout the state. We want to be a true network for the entire  DD Community. In this new arrangement, articles and comments from the entire state-wide community will be posted to this site www.ddadvocates.com . Welcome.

Here’s the press release:

Detroit, MI –March 30, 2011:  DD Advocates of Michigan has formed a coalition of advocacy groups from various areas of the state to improve the distribution of information pertaining to the needs of persons  with  Developmental Disabilities (DD) in Michigan.

The coalition was formed because there is a critical need for sharing news of events, legislative initiatives, national policy and basic information concerning the delivery of services on a local level, says Ed Diegel, the founder of ddAdvocates of Wayne County.

 Three major advocacy groups, ddAdvocates of Wayne County, Friends of the Developmentally Disabled of Washtenaw County, and the Town Hall Coalition (THC) of Ottawa County are forming the network as a response to requests for a more immediate information sharing and distribution system.

 “Many times there are ideas proposed and service delivery policy changes implemented without the consumers of those services being aware of the changes or having an opportunity to provide input”, says Tom Bird of the THC. “We stakeholders have often been blindsided by programmatic changes, and have not had our opportunity for input, as required by the state Mental Health Code.”

 The Michigan Department of Community Health is charged with establishing policy and procedures for the delivery of Medicaid services for the DD community but has not, as yet, provided a statewide communications vehicle for the stakeholders to receive information and provide dialog on issues. “It is our hope that this network will answer the need expressed by many stakeholders who feel they do not have timely knowledge of, or a voice in, discussing proposed policy decisions”, says Diegel.

ddAdvocates of Wayne County hosts a web site (http://ddadvocates.com/) that will be the central repository for notices of events, recognition of exceptional people and programs, major position papers, guest blogs, and links to other sources of information. Membership lists of mental health consumers throughout the state will be maintained by individual regional sponsors of the coalition. Sponsors will receive Newsletters announcing new postings and  forward them to individuals on their regional distribution lists..

 The network is open to any formal or informal group interested in the well being of persons with developmental disabilities of any age. Network Sponsors are invited to submit guest blogs and all readers are encouraged to comment on Blog postings..

“Our hope is that local Community Mental Health Agencies and Service Providers will join the network and pass on information to their respective consumers/stakeholders”, explains Diegel. “The more folks who are receiving information, the more comments from stakeholders, the better the understanding of our collective needs and the more effective we will be in support of these crucial programs”

“One of the problems with the current service delivery system is the patchwork-quilt of varying types of services around the state”, stresses Bird. “There is a great disparity of scope and range of services from one county to another. Our hope is that improved communication will enable consumers to better understand the types of services they should expect to have available, and enable them to deal more effectively  with their local CMH providers and agencies.”

Another problem which the coalition is attempting to address is the lack of preparedness that some parents have in facing the transition from school delivered services to the adult service system. This typically occurs at age 26, when the schools complete their mandated services. The adult system does not always preplan the transition, and may not offer the range and scope of services that the consumer has been receiving. There may also be a delay in enrolling in the adult program.

 “Our goal is to assist parents in understanding the process and knowing their rights”, says Bob Brown of the THC. “We have operated a Family Information Group (FIG) program for several years in Ottawa County with the support of our local CMH to assist families of younger children in understanding the challenges, and the opportunities. This network will expand that effort”.

Jill Barker, of the Washtenaw County Friends group has been engaged in distributing policy news and position papers on service delivery issues for many years. Her blog (http://theddnewsblog.blogspot.com/ ) offers a wealth of information and links to national groups. Postings from Barker and other contributors will be hosted and distributed by the ddAdvocates main web site.

 “We invite all parties who are concerned with the delivery, or utilization of DD Medicaid services to contribute articles or news of activities for statewide distribution”, says Barker. Examples  of the type of articles which are posted are copies of testimony by several stakeholders before the Health and Human Services (HHS) staff at a recent Regional ADD Conference in Detroit.

 Another founder of the coalition is Jan Plas of Livingston County, who is a long time advocate and founding board member of Community Opportunity Center in Wayne County, and who is currently a member of the Livingston County CMH Board. “Opportunity centers which provide skill building and job supports are currently under attack by some members of the service provider community,” says Plas.  “They misunderstand the value of such congregated work settings, as well as the value of joint living arrangements such as group homes which provide a variety of supports and services in a safe and appropriate setting. We serve a diverse population of consumers with a wide variety of needs. No one size fits all of their individual needs.”

The network hopes that improved dialog about these and other issues  will help the community at large to better understand the concept of “choice from an array of services” as supported by the Mental Health Code and the state association of CMH agencies (MACMHB).

Anyone interested in joining the network either as a Network Sponsor, or as an individual can contact

Ed Diegel at ddAdvocates@gmail.com, or Jill Barker at jillbarker@SBCglobal.net, or Tom Bird at  tombird2@yahoo.com.