Michael Vizena, the Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, contacted a number of advocacy groups before the May 17, 2010 meeting of the Executive Board to ask their opinion on the Choice Resolution. The Resolution affirms the right of community mental health consumers to choose services and settings from a full array of options based on their individual needs and preferences.
He received three responses before the meeting: Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services said in a brief e-mail, "This is an excellent policy statement." The ARC Michigan and United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan were adamantly opposed to the resolution.
Dohn Hoyle, Executive Director of the ARC Michigan, says "The statewide advocacy community, on behalf of persons with developmental disabilities, is united in seeking improved integrated models for supporting our fellow citizens with disabilities. This does not include old out-dated models and methodologies which congregate and segregate them."
He goes on to say, "At a time when strong mutual advocacy is called for, it is disappointing to see the Board Association staking out an apologist position, sanctioning almost anything a Board or provider would suggest, if they could find any people to agree with it. Such a document would be very divisive."
The Executive Director of UCP, Linda Potter, says,"I'm surprised the Boards Association would think of adopting such a statement, which is completely opposite to the spirit and intent of the Application for Renewal and Recommitment (ARR). The ARR gives us a vision of where we want to be. Why then adopt a discussion of 'choice' that acknowledges services that would be a turn backwards?"
Considering the stance of Michigan Protection and Advocacy on the choice issue and the many families that wrote and called in support of the Choice Resolution, Dohn Hoyle seems to have miscalculated the degree of unity in the advocacy community on this issue. The advocacy community has never been monolithic, and some of the fanatical, unbending positions that the ARC Michigan has taken over the years has done little to prevent unnecessary polarization. Neither Dohn Hoyle nor Linda Potter seem to have much faith that people with developmental disabilities and their families really do know better, even better than advocacy organizations, what they need and want.