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“The Detroit Area Agency on Aging addresses food insecurity as the major health challenge for elders living at home.”

Michigan helps elders stay where they want to be: At home

Reposted from Second Wave-Michigan

womAccording to the Administration for Community Living, 24% of Michiganders will be 60 or older by 2030. While assisted living and long-term care facilities will become home to many of them, an AARP survey found that three out of four people aged 50 and older want to remain at home.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan’s 16 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) recognize the need to support elders who want to age in place — and they are crafting programs to make that possible.

“A lot of seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible,” says Scott Wamsley, deputy director for the MDHHS Aging and Adult Services Agency. “That’s … important in staying connected with their community, their family, and friends.”

Depending on which AAA administers them, services available to elders at home may include home-delivered meals; aides that help with bathing, dressing, and housework; and friendly reassurance phone calls to check in with elders. Other programs provide caregivers in-home relief and support.

“For those seniors that can be supported in their homes, the cost of service is typically lower than what you’d find in institutional care,” Wamsley says. “There are some cost savings for the state of Michigan when a person can stay in their home.”

 

Preventing premature death prolongs independence

The Detroit Area Agency on Aging (DAAA) bases its work on “Dying Before Their Time,” an award-winning 2003 study of the older residents DAAA serves. Updated in 2012, the study examined why premature death was common among Detroiters of color. The study found that lifestyle changes and better health practices could extend elders’ lifespans while also supporting increased independence and older Detroiters’ ability to age in place at home.

“Individuals would rather age in their community, age in place. I have not heard anyone openly indicate that they would rather go to a long-term care facility,” says Ronald Taylor, president and chief executive officer of DAAA. “By reducing likelihood of premature death, we also increase likelihood of remaining independent for more years. If we can better manage our chronic conditions, we can live a longer and a healthier life, a better quality of life.”

Ronald Taylor.

Taylor notes that programs encouraging elders to eat healthy, exercise, and quit smoking, coordinated with healthcare services, increase quality of life. The DAAA addresses food insecurity as the major health challenge for elders living at home. For the past 20 years, its nutrition programs — including its Meals on Wheels program, which is among the largest in the country — have met this challenge. As an added benefit, Meals on Wheels eases the social isolation that impacts so many elders. When drivers drop off meals, they chat a bit with folks, create friendships, and report back if they find any problems.

“Meals on Wheels puts a set of eyes on the individual,” Taylor says. “The meals, in many respects, are the backbone of a lot of our aging services program.”

A Detroit Meals on Wheels van loaded with meals.

Some programs help elders navigate healthcare systems. The DAAA hosts the Michigan Medicare Assistant Program, which helps individuals decipher Medicare coverage options. Not one to sit behind a desk, Taylor joins his staff as they engage older community members face-to-face to share information on housing options, nutrition, wellness, employment, and social opportunities. Further contact is made via the DAAA’s Senior Solutions newsletter and social media.

“We do a great deal of outreach as far as educating the community on services and programs and also whatever community resources may be available,” Taylor says.

Hospice home care: An overlooked option

 

According to Patrick Miller, Hospice of Michigan executive vice president and COO, supporting caregivers is equally as important as providing services to elders living in their own homes, especially when dementia comes into play. While a stand-alone diagnosis of dementia does not qualify elders for Medicare-covered hospice benefits, that care can be provided when certain other conditions are present.

“How do we care for the caregivers who are just burned out, really exhausted, and scared? We can provide medications so people with dementia don’t have confusion at night when they might become more agitated [and] confused and help them sleep,” Miller says. “We can provide respite when people say, ‘I just need a break,’ moving the patient into a skilled nursing home for five days where they are cared for in a safe environment and the caregiver can rest and do things for their own wellbeing. And we can provide aides to do personal care. That’s a big relief for caregivers.”

Hospice of Michigan.

Elders qualifying for hospice care also receive durable medical equipment, like hospital beds, mechanical lifts, and commodes, as a covered Medicare expense.

“All that stuff we can provide so you’re not breaking your back,” Miller says. “That’s a big deal and part of the benefit.”

Miller would like to see Medicare and other insurances offer shorter-term, in-home respite opportunities for caregivers – for example, offering an aide for a few hours on a Saturday, or overnight so the regular caregiver can get some sleep.

There’s an app for that

When asked how the Otsego County Commission on Aging supports elders living at home, executive director Dona Wishart will enthusiastically describe the capabilities of the Commun02 app. The multi-faceted platform can connect older adults to worship services or family and friends via video conference, virtual travel abroad, and community resources. It is currently being piloted in Gaylord, Flint, Traverse City, and St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

Betty (in pink) connects with her sister in the “old country” using CommunO2 with the help of Mary, a retired senior volunteer in Otsego County. Betty had not seen her sister in about 15 years.

Wishart notes recent research that found that despite the perception that older adults avoid or fear technology, more of them are using it than ever before. She tells a story about a time she shared the app with a group of elders and their smartphones kept distracting them.

“The platform is an opportunity for social connection to family, friends, and social organizations that are important to them,” she says. “We are finding that social isolation is very detrimental. Social connectivity is part of the answer.”

The platform has the capability to add features like remote patient monitoring and telemedicine, which would expand its practicality for older adults living in their own homes.

“If you overcome the barriers, even the oldest people find something that excites them about what the app offers,” says Commun02 developer Joel Ackerman. “To them, it’s safe, secure, and compelling. It helps when they need it, and it’s affordable. Even people in their 90s, if they can see their grandkids and talk to them, that’s enough to excite them to learn to use it.”

Tech is great, but more touch is needed

Like the rest of the nation, Michigan is experiencing a shortage of direct care health aides. Wamsley notes that MDHHS recognizes the direct care worker shortage as a huge issue. The state’s growing aging population exacerbates the problem, particularly in rural areas where young people move away for employment, leaving aging parents without a family safety net.

“It is an issue that our Area Agencies on Aging are facing,” he says. “It can be a demanding job, a job that people really feel is a mission. But it’s difficult work, so some choose other employment.”

In Detroit, Taylor notes that people can make $10 to $12 an hour at a fast food restaurant or $15 an hour working at a car wash — while most direct care workers scrape by on minimum wage.

“The direct care worker shortage is very real, something which we are aggressively working on,” Taylor says.

He says the state needs to find a way to “properly reimburse” workers, offer them more training, and also work on rebranding in order to “put a new face on what the direct care worker looks like and attract others to participate.”

In one analysis, researcher Dr. Robyn Stone said: “Home health aides, home care workers, and personal care attendants form the core of the formal home care system by providing assistance with activities of daily living and the personal interaction that is essential to quality of life and quality of care for their clients.”

Within 10 years, nearly a quarter of Michigan residents may be relying on those workers, whether they live in facilities or stay where they’d rather be: at home.

A freelance writer and editor, Estelle Slootmaker is happiest writing about social justice, wellness, and the arts. She is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media, communications manager for Our Kitchen Table, and chairs The Tree Amigos, City of Wyoming Tree Commission. Her finest accomplishment is her five amazing adult children. You can contact Estelle at Estelle.Slootmaker@gmail.com or www.constellations.biz.

 

All photos by Steve Koss except CommunO2 photo courtesy of Otsego County Commission on Aging and Ronald Taylor photo courtesy of Detroit Area Agency on Aging.

Expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits

8133E959-4131-4A80-9C81-DA770BA57421-770x470Governor Whitmer has signed an executive order temporarily expanding eligibility for unemployment benefits. Under the order, unemployment benefits would be extended to:

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off.
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.

We must come together to protect those who have become unemployed from this health crisis. Sign our petition to support the expansion of unemployment benefits to hardworking Michiganders.

 

Tell the Michigan Public Service Commission to make DTE work for us!

MsMargaret01_1200-1Reposted from the MEJC

The Work For Me, DTE! campaign is working for health, affordability, and democracy in Detroit and throughout southeast Michigan.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is supposed to be our watchdog making sure DTE treats us ratepayers fairly. The MPSC is currently considering DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). DTE’s IRP is how they plan to spend your money over the next 15 years, shaping the future of our communities. Their plan right now is to spend your money building giant fracked gas plants and pipelines, making massive profits for their shareholders and leaving our communities sick, underserved, and overcharged.

We can change that.

We are calling on the Michigan Public Service Commission to put community welfare over corporate profits. The IRP should promote affordability, health, community ownership, and good jobs in our communities through local clean energy like rooftop solar, accessible weatherization and energy efficiency, and equitable infrastructure upgrades.

Make your voice HEARD!

Resources:

The following organizations are part of the Work For Me, DTE campaign. To add your organization, email work4medte@gmail.com.

East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Engage Michigan, Ecology Center, Meta Peace Team / MCHR, Good Jobs Now, MI Citizens For Conservation, Coalition To Oppose US Ecology, WACO, D2SOLAR, Sierra Club, MI Interfaith Power & Light, Good Jobs Now, Soulardarity, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Citizen’s Resistance Against Fermi Two, We Want Green Too!, We The People Detroit, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit

Coalition of immigrant rights groups urges communities to spread facts, not fear, on public charge rule change

FREAReposted news release from the Michigan League for Public Policy

On Monday, Jan. 27, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision that allows the new public charge rule aimed at immigrant families to take effect while several cases challenging its legality make their way through the courts. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services intends to begin implementing the rule on Feb. 24, 2020. The Protecting Immigrant Families – Michigan Coalition issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. The statement may be attributed to Staff Attorney Tania Morris Diaz of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC).

“This new rule is essentially a wealth test that severely changes the face of family-based immigration in the United States, and threatens the health, nutrition, and housing of families all over the country. The rule is designed to disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, and undermines our nation’s core values.

We must ensure that families are equipped with accurate information about public charge so they can make decisions based on facts and not fear. Many immigrant families, including those with United States citizen children, have been unnecessarily disenrolling from public benefits as a precaution in light of the new rule. Right now, direct service organizations around the country are working hard to prevent this harmful chilling effect, and to address existing confusion about the public charge rule itself.

“Most families can continue to get benefits they’re eligible for without it affecting their immigration options.

“The ultimate fate of the final rule is currently unclear, as these lawsuits will still have to be decided on their merits, and the courts hearing these cases may still strike down the rule. If this rule is fully and permanently implemented, it will have a serious impact on our family-based immigration system. We have yet to know how this highly complicated new rule will be applied to future green card applicants, but every case is different and outcomes will depend on the circumstances of each applicant. We encourage individuals seeking to obtain a green card through a family member to educate themselves on the process and speak with an attorney to determine how to proceed.

“In this country, we don’t value people’s contributions to their community by the size of their bank account. We are hopeful that regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the temporary injunction, this rule is ultimately struck down by the courts as unlawful.”

The Protecting Immigrant Families – Michigan campaign urges the media to put out the right information and help document the harmful impacts of this rule.

As an important reminder, the public charge rule does not affect individuals who already have their green card and want to renew it, remove conditions on it, or apply for citizenship. It does not apply to those who are not eligible to apply for a green card. The new rule does not apply to U.S. citizen family members of mixed-status families. It does not apply to those who have or are applying for asylum or refugee status, T-Visas, U-Visas, SIJS or VAWA. 

 

Immigrant families with questions about public charge should call the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center at 734-239-6863 for free and confidential information.

EJ Communities’ Urgent Need for Climate Action

mejc_logo_colorReposted from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

*This letter was originally prepared for a meeting with EJ Public Advocate Regina Strong, and Dr. Brandy Brown, Climate and Energy Advisor to the Governor

Memo on Governor’s Climate Agenda: To Address the Urgent
Need for Environmental Justice, We Must be Climate READY

First, we want to recognize the moral significance of making time and space to meet directly with environmental justice communities and organizations on the urgent demands of the climate crisis.

Vulnerable communities, Black, Latinx, Arab, and Indigenous peoples have bore the brunt of contamination and degradation in Michigan for decades, if not centuries. As such, our expertise of the regulatory system, our traditional ecological knowledge, and our social networks are rich, exact in their capacities, and best suited to troubleshoot and resolve climate issues – whether the issues are ones that are emergent or ones tied to past abuses of the energy sector.
Additionally, organizations and Tribes led by leaders who live in their communities bear externalities and the highest risks of bad policy decisions. They also have the most to gain from positive results of good policy in physical and material ways. The rewards of positive policy decisions should seek to amend and resolve the historic disproportionality of toxicity and inaccessibility to food, water, land, healthy communities and cultural freedoms.
With this in mind, we believe there are several low hanging fruits for the Governor to move on that exemplify early stage crisis responses that are administratively sound. We summarize them in a community-useful acronym called Climate R.E.A.D.Y. that identifies our priorities and timeframe.

CLIMATE R.E.A.D.Y.
Readiness for the crisis
● Establish regular communication with frontline communities, especially those that are
multilingual and accessible for multi-abled people;
● Engage local hearings, townhall, and listening sessions on toxics, vulnerability, health, pollution, legacy sites, flooding, high heat and extreme cold;
● Meet regularly with EJ organizations and Tribal governments about climate, environmental impacts, and troubleshooting resilience strategies;
● Communicate with multi-platform channels through televised, print, and online sources.

Emergency-response protocols
● Establish cross-agency and cross-jurisdiction working groups that can quickly mobilize when there is a threat of exposure and/or contamination along with extreme weather contingency planning, funding, and execution;
● Troubleshoot and evaluate emergency situations and closure of regulatory loopholes;
● Disclose fully all materials, incidents and responsible parties, with fines and fees levied at the scale of the risk and directed toward clean up and harm reduction/mitigation;
● Deploy effective and timely risk communication to potentially impacted communities, with
adequate evacuation notification.

Assess past and foreseen harms
● Employ Cumulative Impact Assessments and Health Impact Assessment in decision-making;
● Assess climate risk in decision-making at the permit level, and certificate of necessity, IRP and other planning, including high lake levels, including life cycle analysis of all GHG emission sources (public and private);
● Establish a Climate Commission in which equity is central and where environmental justice communities have a majority in decision-making;
● Enact vulnerability criteria that are utilized in decision-making processes regarding emissions control, reduction, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Development initiatives
● Aggregate financing, block grants, and special funds deployed for Just Transition within geographies directly impacted by pollution, flooding, food shocks, high heat, drought, extreme cold and persistent contamination AND particularly where there is no or inadequate access to healthcare, housing, food and clean water, and other resilience measures for public health and welfare;
● Direct public dollars to leverage the Just Transition of municipalities and workforce sectors impacted by fossil fuel regulatory statutes like facility closure;
● Target strategies for transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable economy within those same vulnerable geographies, including EV access, clean drinking water and sanitation infrastructure, organic food, waste reduction and elimination, community solar, energy, efficient retrofits, transmission renovation and distributed generation;
● Create a “Do business in Michigan” incentives program for Michigan-based companies to receive tax breaks or other incentives as they pursue/maximize using local production inputs and purchase products, minority-owned businesses, as locally as possible to reduce transportation emissions, which will also create Michigan jobs and economic benefits.
● Train those most under-represented in the clean energy workforce including but not limited to: returning citizens, veterans, Tribal members, DACA residents;
● Reject bailout promises that burden residential consumers with debt from stranded assets we foresee in the energy sector;
● Adopt strategies for EJ communities displaced by extreme weather events settling or unsettled in Michigan.

Year 2030
● Acknowledge that by all estimates the climate crisis is upon us in Michigan and there is no time to wait.
● Pursue aggressively 100% renewable energy by 2030. As the steward of 89% of the nation’s fresh surface water, Michigan must act.
● Reject the false solutions presented by the oil and gas industry, like carbon capture and storage, cap and trade, and nuclear energy, as being the only options to put millions of people to work, and save lives on a global scale.

With this Climate R.E.A.D.Y. program for Michigan, we believe the Governor’s Climate Agenda has the best opportunity for ecological and environmental justice success. MEJC is ready and able to help you meet this challenge and demonstrate our commitment to Michigan communities and the nation.

Thank you.

Regards,
Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition

Jail task force offers up major improvements

Michigan League for Public Policy urges Legislature to follow through

downloadDiverse, bipartisan group seeks to improve jail system to better serve all, reduce burden on people with lower incomes

The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration’s recommendations announced today. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Our current jail system’s overemphasis on fines and fees—and severe imbalance and punishment for those who can’t afford them—is creating a modern-day debtors’ prison where people with lower incomes receive harsher penalties than people with money. This area of our justice system has sadly become more focused on public profits than public safety and the punishment often fits the pocketbook more than the crime. But the jail task force’s recommendations released today seek to change that, and the League wholeheartedly supports these recommendations.

“With the Legislature’s proven, bipartisan appetite for justice reform illustrated over the past year, we are optimistic that lawmakers will continue that momentum and take these suggestions to heart. This task force was conscientious of diversity in every regard, including experiences and perspectives, and with representatives from every angle of the jail system involved, this report stands to be a good area of common-sense reform and bipartisan agreement that is needed to start the new year off right.”

The Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration’s policy recommendations are:

Traffic violations: Stop suspending and revoking licenses for actions unrelated to safe driving. Reclassify most traffic offenses and some other minor misdemeanors as civil rather than criminal infractions.

Arrest: Expand officer discretion to use appearance tickets as an alternative to arrest and jail. Reduce the use of arrest warrants to enforce court appearance and payments, and establish a statewide initiative to resolve new warrants and recall very old ones.

Behavioral health diversion: Provide crisis response training for law enforcement and incentivize programs and partnerships between law enforcement and treatment providers to divert people with behavioral health needs from the justice system pre- and post-arrest.

The first 24 hours after arrest: Release people jailed on certain charges pre-arraignment and guarantee appearance before a judicial officer within 24-48 hours for anyone still detained.

Pretrial release and detention: Strengthen the presumption of release on personal recognizance and set higher thresholds for imposing non-financial and financial conditions. Provide a detention hearing for all defendants still detained 48 hours after arraignment.

Speedy trial: Require defendants to be tried within 18 months of arrest and preserve speedy trial rights unless waived by the defendant.

Alternatives to jail sentences: Presumptively impose sentences other than jail for non-serious misdemeanors and for felonies marked for “intermediate sanctions” under the sentencing guidelines.

Probation and parole: Shorten maximum probation terms for most felonies, establish new caps on jail time for technical violations, and streamline the process for those in compliance to earn early discharge.

Financial barriers to compliance: Reduce fine amounts for civil infractions. Require criminal courts to determine ability to pay fines and fees at sentencing and to modify unaffordable obligations. Repeal the law authorizing sheriffs to bill people for their own incarceration.

Victim services: Invest significant resources in victim services and strengthen protection order practices.

Data collection: Standardize criminal justice data collection and reporting across the state.