The Executive Board of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards met Monday night, May 17, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Dearborn, Michigan. It was the first night of the organization's Spring conference.
The reason it is important to know what the MACMHB is up to is because this is one of the venues where state mental health policy gets discussed, hashed out, and sometimes handed over or taken up by the Department of Community Mental Health (MDCH) to be recirculated through all the CMH agencies in the state.
I was most interested in the Board's reaction to the Choice Resolution , a policy/value statement that shores up the right of developmentally disabled consumers to services and placements suitable to their needs and preferences. It is intended to counteract an alarming push by some advocates and the MDCH to limit and eventually eliminate specialized services for people with DD that are provided in group settings, which the advocates and MDCH consider to be segregated and discriminatory. They support choice, of course, but they want to limit choice to the services and settings they want our DD family members to have.
Three public comments (mine included), all supporting the Choice Resolution, got the ball rolling, so to speak. After a few routine agenda items were taken care of, Michael Head, Deputy Director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Administration for the MDCH, gave his report to the Board along with his comments on the Choice Resolution. During his report, he mentioned that he does not like to be demonized. So I will say upfront, that he did not have horns and if he had a tail, he hid it well.
Michael Head obviously did not like the criticism of the MDCH. The Board had received many e-mails from families objecting to the "Vision for All People with Developmental Disabilities", a draft policy paper coming out of The Standards Group, a strange little quasi-subcommittee of the MACMHB that I will try to explain at another time. In an odd attempt to both defend the Vision statement and disavow it, Michael. Head said that it was important to have a dialectic on these issues, but he didn't pay much attention to it and had never read it!
He feels he has been misrepresented and that his primary concern is for people with high vulnerabilities in the system whom he has decided do not do as well in larger facilities. He does not like the wording of the Choice Resolution and says it gives "a wink and a nod" to isolation and segregation. He also said the genesis of the wording for the statement came form MARO , a Michigan training and employment association that he said is trying to save the jobs of its members. Fortunately, parents from Western Michigan who were involved in the original wording of the statement on Choice, were sitting behind me at the meeting. They said the wording came from parents and had nothing to do with MARO.
In a display of confusion and general wimpishness, the Executive Board decided to table the Choice Resolution for another time. Michael Brashears from Ottawa County CMH and Jan Plas from Livingston County CMH, both supporters of the Choice Resolution, voted against tabling it and 19 others voted for tabling the resolution.
Later, in a report from The Standards Group, Laura Vredeveld said they had lots of calls from parents and advocates about the DD Vision statement and that no consensus had been reached on the document. Some advocates felt the document should be even more restrictive of services available. She said the most polarizing aspects of the Vision statement will be removed including value judgments on specific services and settings.
There was both passion and bluster in the discussion of the Choice Resolution and very little was resolved. There is no doubt that e-mails and phone calls from families voicing their opinion on choice and the vision statement had an impact on the Board members and the MDCH.
If you don't say anything, you don't have a say.