Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Constitutional challenge to budget cuts?

This is from the MARO Employment and Training Association weekly update:


Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service (MPAS) stated this week that it is pulling together the agency's legal talent needed to consider filing a Constitutional Challenge against the state of Michigan if the State Legislature and governor move forward with the anticipated massive cuts in services to people with disabilities.

Elmer Cerano, executive director of the nonprofit agency stated, "In our frequent and intensive visits with State officials the answer is always the same, 'we have no money.' Of course we recognize the very real fiscal crisis facing the state; however, we take very seriously the promises of Michigan's Constitution, Article 8, Section 8, which provides:

Institutions, programs and services for the care, treatment, education, or rehabilitation of those inhabitants who are physically, mentally or otherwise seriously disabled shall always be fostered and supported.

Mark Cody, the organization's legal director stated, "Further reductions in General Fund appropriations for mental health services will place the most vulnerable of Michigan's citizens at risk. The state of Michigan is, or may soon be, in violation of the Michigan Constitution by failing to adequately fund services for individuals who are physically, mentally or otherwise seriously disabled."

Cerano has directed the agency's legal team to investigate the feasibility of bringing a Constitutional Challenge against the State for its failure to meet this constitutional requirement. "We will be carefully monitoring the impact of the budget cuts on the lives of people with disabilities," he says.

Elmer Cerano is the Keynote Speaker at the 2009 Michigan Rehabilitation Conference, October 21-23 at the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Washtenaw ISD: Free sign language classes

This is from the Washtenaw County Special Education Information group:

Free Sign Language Classes
At Washtenaw Intermediate School District
1819 S. Wagner Road, Ann Arbor MI 48106
beginning on Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Instructor: Barbara Leonard

Twelve free sign classes will be held on Wednesdays,
beginning on October 14th.

Textbook required: Signing Naturally I.
(Wait until first class before purchasing.)

School/Preschool Signs -- 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Learn:
  • the sign alphabet
  • signs for everyday phrases related to the school environment
  • signs for song, rhymes, and stories
  • proper use of gestures, idioms, body language

Basic ASL -- 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Learn:
  • the sign alphabet
  • signs for everyday phrases
  • finger spelling
  • proper use of gestures, idioms, body language
  • deeper look into the characteristics of American Sign Language
The best way to register is to register on the WISD website . Click on Services--Staff Development Services--Workshop Registration or use this link .

If you do not have access to a computer, you can call Barbara Leonard
at 994-8100 x1532 and leave a message with your name, address, and
phone number.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Washtenaw County funding cuts for DD services

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners (BOC) met on September 2, 2009. During public participation at the beginning of the meeting, at least five people, some with their disabled family member, made statements to the commissioners opposing proposals to reduce funding to Community Supports and Treatment Services' (CSTS) vocational and skill-building programs. The BOC was genuinely moved by the family members who talked about how much they rely on these programs for their loved ones and the distress it causes when programs are abruptly changed or terminated. The commissioners appeared not to be aware of the heartfelt opposition to these proposals.

The meeting was covered by and the Ann Arbor Chronicle .

Part of the meeting that was not covered by local on-line news, were comments and questions by Ronnie Peterson, a commissioner from Ypsilanti. He has personal experience with a disabled uncle whom his family cared for and was especially sympathetic to the concerns of families. First, he emphasized that the BOC has not taken any steps on CSTS funding. He was surprised by the opposition from families concerning cuts in funding by the county that could result in CSTS losing many programs that families rely on. He wondered what steps CSTS had taken to involve and inform families of possible funding cuts, before the BOC was notified of the impact these cuts would have on CSTS programs. He said he would not want to approve something opposed by consumers.

Donna Sabourin, the director of CSTS, spoke much later in the meeting to update the BOC on CSTS funding. She said the Washtenaw Community Health Organization (WCHO) contracts with the CSTS to provide the vocational and skill-building programs that serve a large number of people with developmental disabilities. She presented three options for the future of these programs:

  1. The WCHO receives Medicaid funding for the vast majority of people participating in these programs and expects increases in Medicaid funds to help pay for services. The WCHO might increase funding to CSTS to make up for the cuts in funding from Washtenaw County and keep current programs, if funding permits.
  2. The WCHO could contract with other entities to provide the same services at less cost.
  3. The WCHO already uses other contractors to provide some vocational services. There has been a problem with some of these programs having to switch providers every year. The CSTS could bring these programs back to CSTS without increasing CSTS staffing, thereby saving money and maintaining their current programs with WCHO funding, including the increases in Medicaid funding.
The 3rd option may be the best, but it would require approval of the WCHO based on that agency’s estimate of future funding.

BOC meetings are available for viewing by webcast here. Past meetings are found in the archives. Under the viewing screen, there is a place where you can select an agenda item (such as Public Participation) and go directly to viewing that part of the meeting.

Important meetings coming up:

WCHO Board Meeting: Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 6 – 9 p.m. at the LRC building at 4135 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor. Contact information: Suzanne Gondek at (734) 544-3014 or .

Washtenaw BOC Meeting: Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 6:30 p.m., Board Room in the Administration Building at 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor.

Jill Barker
Friends of the Developmentally Disabled

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quote of the Day

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

Antoine de Saint Exupery