Thursday, October 28, 2010

Medicaid dental services reinstated for adults in Michigan

Dental services for adults on Medicaid have been reinstated with passage of the budget bills for fiscal year 2011. Beginning October 1st, 2010, adults 21 and over may again receive dental services. For a comprehensive look at the services available, see the Dental Database for 2010.

Funding that made it possible to restore dental benefits is temporary, however, and will probably not be available next year. Even before the next fiscal year begins in October 2011, the next Governor could rescind these benefits through an executive order.

Some dental services require prior authorization from Medicaid before the service is provided. To assure that needed dental work gets done, adults on Medicaid should see a dentist as soon as possible to get authorization for Medicaid covered procedures. As long as authorization is obtained now, these services will be covered.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Free respite evenings in Washtenaw County

On the first Friday of every month from 6 p.m to 9 p.m., responsible volunteers provide parents of special needs children a break at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor.

The Special Needs Ministry of St. Luke Lutheran Church sponsors respite care with enjoyable activities, snacks,
music, and fun in a safe environment for children with special needs. Siblings are welcome! The program is open to all ages.

Registration providing information about the child and family is required. An R.S.V.P. is required no later than the Tuesday
before the Friday respite care evening. There are spaces for 25 children. A waiting list is maintained in case there are cancellations.

The next respite evenings will be on November 5th and December 3rd, 2010.

For more information contact:

Pam Kamrath at 734.474.0573 or
St. Luke Lutheran Church
4205 Washtenaw Ave.

Ann Arbor

Former WISD teacher's aide receives probation for mistreatment of autistic student

A former teacher's aide for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Michael Beasley, was sentenced to probation for slapping a special education student in a WISD program for autistic students at Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor. He had already been convicted of another misdemeanor in a related case.

At first, when reports surfaced in 2008 that students had been mistreated by the aide, the WISD investigated and then transferred the aide to High Point School in Ann Arbor. Parents, dissatisfied with the WISD response to the charges, contacted the police who did their own investigation that led to criminal charges against the aide. The Director of Special Education for the WISD at the time resigned and other administrators were reassigned. The aide was fired based on a reinvestigation of the case by the WISD.

As reported by on September 8, 2010, the aide pleaded no contest to the charge of slapping a special education student in exchange for dropping a felony charge against him. He was later sentenced to one year of probation for a misdemeanor charge of assault.

According to, the mother of the autistic student said her son was hit so hard his face had a red mark for 15 minutes and that allegations from other parents showed a pattern of abuse. She said, "...My son could not communicate this abuse, and you cannot imagine how that made me feel.”

The aide's attorney said the sentence was redundant because Beasley is already on probation through the 15th District Court for a separate but related conviction.

For background information on this case see previous blog entries with links to reports from the Ann Arbor News.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Washtenaw County Special Olympics

This is a note from Anne Rogers, the Director of Special Olympics for Washtenaw and Livingston Counties:

Now that the school year is in full swing I wanted to send some dates for the upcoming year so you can plan for them.

We will have basketball practices starting December 6 at 6:00 at High Point School on Wagner in Ann Arbor next to the WISD. ALL abilities are welcome.

Our Spring Bowling Tournament is scheduled for April 29 at Bellmark.

Our Spring Games is scheduuled for May 17 at Saline High.

Our Polar Plunge is scheduled for February 19 at U of M golf club. We are looking for people to help plan this and to take the plunge.

I am always available to speak to groups that want to find out more about Special Olympics - just let me know.

Please forward to anyone that you think may be interested.

Anne Rogers,
Special Olympics Michigan
Director, Livingston and Washtenaw
phone: (734) 222-8283
fax: (734) 222-9895
Special Olympics Michigan Website

Friday, October 8, 2010

Michigan group homes for severely disabled

A few weeks ago, I made a trip to Ottawa County in Western Michigan and visited what many consider a model program for people with the most severe developmental disabilities. I am always on the look-out for homes that care for people like my sons and these were outstanding by any measure.

Harbor House Ministries in Jenison, Michigan (just west of Grand Rapids in eastern Ottawa County), is a faith-based non-profit organization that grew out of a need for housing for people with severe disabilities. Parents and caregivers designed the residences (three buildings, each containing two 6-bed group homes) based on their conception of an ideal living situation for their loved-ones.

The homes are spacious, accessible for wheelchairs, and well-equipped for this population. For each six-bed unit, there is a spacious living and dining area. This is separated from the bedrooms by a firewall that would take two hours to burn through if there were ever a fire - it takes a mother to think of something like that. Each resident has his or her own large bedroom, furnished and decorated according to their personalities and wishes. One of the residents is so enamored of McDonald's that he would spend all his waking hours there if he could. His room is decorated in McDonald's red and yellow colors and contains all the images familiar to McDonald's fans.

Most of the residents at Harbor House have moved there from their family homes and they bring their own beds and familiar furnishings. Each bedroom has its own bathroom. Many families have provided a sleeper-sofa in case they need to spend the night if their family member needs them. Each room is temperature controlled and the floor is heated for the residents who crawl and spend time on the floor. Each 6-bed unit has a large fully-equipped shower and bathroom.

I have been in group homes that have a television blaring full-time (more often for the staff than for the residents), but at Harbor House, there were no TV's except in a few residents' rooms. They do show DVD's for the residents for entertainment, but there is a lot more at Harbor House to do than stare at a TV all day.

A large activity center was built for a day program and other recreational and therapeutic activities. The building includes a therapy pool heated to 92 degrees that 3 or 4 residents can use at a time. It is used every day. A kitchen for preparing evening meals for residents is also part of the spacious activity center. Residents participate in community activities according to their individual needs and abilities.

Peggy Dreisenga, the Community Relations Director for Harbor House, says that they are most proud of the care they give residents. The staff-to-resident ratio is 1:2. A nurse is on staff days and evenings and always on-call for emergencies. They hire staff based on their compassion, integrity, energy, and joy and encourage close relationships with families. " We can train the specific tasks of care, but we can't teach a person to be caring...It is our goal to provide the opportunity for a great life, not just a great place to live," says Peggy.

There are many other factors that make this program a success:

  • The organization operates debt-free so that all the funds coming in are spent on residents and maintaining the facilities.
  • They have strong community support from family groups, local churches, their local Community Mental Health agency, and other community organizations.
  • Harbor House recognizes that families of adults with severe developmental disabilities are the best advocates for their adult family members. Families meet regularly and help with various tasks in the homes.
  • It costs less to place a person at Harbor House than it does in other group homes in Ottawa County.
  • Staff makes on average a dollar more per hour than staff in other group homes and there are other incentives to keep good people on staff such as flexible hours, especially important for college students and parents.
Harbor House is not expanding its facilities, but the organization is willing to help others who are interested in providing excellent care for their severely disabled family members.

For more information, contact:

Peggy Driesenga, Community Relations Director

Harbor House Ministries
919 44th Street Jenison, Michigan 49428
(616) 797-9920
(616) 797-9921 Fax

The Website for Harbor House Ministries provides more information and pictures of their facilities.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Draft guardianship policy: Comment period extended

Michael Head from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) has extended the comment period for the draft policy on guardianship until October 31st, 2010.

Although the cover letter for the MDCH draft "Technical Advisory" said that all Community Mental Health stakeholders were encouraged to comment, most parents and many CMH Board members from around the state, had not seen it. If you have suggestions on how to improve the distribution of documents such as this from the MDCH, include that in your comments on the draft policy.

One suggestion would be for the MDCH Website for mental health issues to include a contact number or e-mail address for people wanting to receive these materials in the future.