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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.

Citizen initiative would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people

Reposted from Fair and Equal Michigan

Business, political and philanthropic leaders join LGBTQ advocacy groups to proclaim: Every Michigander should have an equal chance to succeed

Fair-and-Equal-Michigan-Proposed-Petition-for-Initiation-of-Legislation-Feb-7-2020-1024x622A growing committee of Michigan citizens submitted petition language today to the Board of State Canvassers seeking to initiate legislation amending the state’s current civil rights law  the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act. The proposed initiative would clarify that the Act’s existing prohibitions on discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of civil rights prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The petition submitted today by Fair and Equal Michigan, a Michigan ballot question committee, starts the process to amend the Act.

Non-partisan Michigan pollster Richard Czuba conducted a statewide survey of 600 registered voters that shows 77.5 percent of likely 2020 Michigan General Election voters support legislation to amend the state’s civil rights law to protect LGBTQ people (66 percent strongly support). Conversely, 16.5 percent do not support. By a margin of 77-17 percent, voters say they would support a citizen initiative to bypass the legislature and put the issue to a vote of the people — including 75 percent of leaning GOP voters and 66 percent of strong Republican voters.

“When I co-sponsored Michigan’s Civil Rights Act in 1973 with Rep. Daisy Elliott, it was about treating everybody equally, especially in employment, housing and our most basic of services; it is long past the time to recognize sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Hon. Mel Larsen, former Member, Michigan House of Representatives. “The legislature can act at any time to amend the Civil Rights Act. This coalition of Michigan citizens has support across LGBTQ groups, the business and philanthropic sectors, and both sides of the political aisle. There is more that brings us together – than forces us apart.”

“Business leaders know that to stay competitive we need to support the people we employ, and that means making clear that there is no place for discrimination in the workplace,” said Jerry Norcia, President and Chief Executive Officer, DTE Energy. “Today’s top job creators are looking to grow in states and communities that are welcoming to everyone. If Michigan wants to compete, we must take a clear stand against discrimination in any form. This effort strengthens Michigan business, our economy and our people.”

“Dow has called Michigan home for more than 120 years, and we are proud to bring top talent here from around the world,” said Jim Fitterling, Chief Executive Officer, Dow. “For Michigan to continue to compete and win globally, and for Dow to continue to innovate in the state, we must be able to recruit and retain the best talent. A fully inclusive community for everyone that lives in Michigan is imperative for all of us to continue effectively doing business in our great state.”

“Discrimination runs contrary to our most basic of American values,” said Tim Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Apple. “By protecting every person from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, we can help make sure that every person is measured by their talents and creativity and is treated with the dignity and respect that is due to all.”

“Advancing the fair treatment of all people – regardless of their race, religion, disability, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity – is a key component of retaining and growing a world-class, talented workforce,” said Patti Poppe, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consumers Energy. “To stay competitive in today’s economy, we need to be bold in our efforts to make our communities more welcoming to all. And efforts to expand Elliott-Larsen is also the right thing to do for our companies, our customers and Michigan.”

“Few people know that in 1972 East Lansing was the first city in the United States to ban discrimination in hiring on account of homosexuality. Nearly five decades later, it’s time we update our laws to be more inclusive and ensure no person, including the LGBTQ community, should fear losing their job or be denied services or housing because of who they are,” said Andi Owen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Herman Miller. “This proposal gives everyone the same chance to succeed so that Michigan can be a more attractive, vibrant and thriving place to live, work, and raise a family.”

“Solidarity is for all of us, and that’s why for the last 40 years, the AFL-CIO has supported adding protections for the LGBTQ community to federal law. Just last year, the Michigan AFL-CIO reaffirmed our support for amending state law to include these protections as well,” said Ron Bieber, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We stand against any form of discrimination in the workplace or in the community — no one should be fired or discriminated against because of who they are or who they love. We are dedicated to fighting for a Michigan that’s open and welcoming to all.”

“As the first CEO to offer Congressional testimony on eliminating LGBT workplace discrimination back in 1997, I thought this would be the law of the land by now,” said Raymond Smith, former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bell Atlantic, now Verizon Communications. “As I said to Congress then and still believe today: No company can afford to waste the talents and contributions of valuable employees as we compete in a global marketplace. It is good business, and it is good citizenship.”

“Throughout Michigan’s history, Michiganders have believed that if you work hard everyone should be given the same right to succeed,” said Mark Bernstein, President and Managing Partner of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, PLLC, Regent of the University of Michigan, and former Member, Michigan Civil Rights Commission. “This proposal reflects Michigan’s values that every individual, no matter their sexual orientation and gender identity, deserves respect and dignity.”

“At Whirlpool, we are proud to be one of the majority of Fortune 500 companies that have taken steps to enact policies to prohibit discrimination for LGBTQ employees,” said Jeff Noel, Corporate Vice President at Whirlpool Corporation. “We strive to create an internal workplace culture that allows and encourages its personnel to bring their full selves to work. This means an open, supportive, and inclusive environment where it is possible for LGBTQ employees to feel welcomed.”

“Every Michigander should have an equal chance at success, without threat of being fired, harassed, or demoted just because the boss doesn’t like that they’re gay or transgender,” said Trevor Thomas, Co-Chair and President of Fair and Equal Michigan and Board Chair for Equality Michigan Action, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group. “After waiting 37 years, this effort gives the legislature eight additional months to pass these basic human rights. If they can’t get the job done, our Constitution affords Michiganders the right to vote to ensure that workers are judged on the job they do, not who they are or who they love.”

“Oftentimes in the LGBTQ community we see harm, violence, murder, and discrimination justified through religious bias, but I believe that God has love, grace and mercy sufficient for us all,” said Jeynce Poindexter, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; LGBTQ Community Advocate and Activist. “It’s important for all of us to come together, not with our politics but with and for people to move this work forward and finally right this wrong.”

“Michigan has the unique opportunity to change and save lives by expanding the state’s non-discrimination law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation,” said Alanna Maguire, Co-Chair of Fair and Equal Michigan, and President of Fair Michigan, a statewide LGBTQ and women’s advocacy group. “It is my hope and expectation that by banning this kind of discrimination, all Michiganders can lead safer, more productive lives, and our state will be made better for it.”

“Michigan lawmakers have long been asked to protect LGBTQ individuals from job and housing discrimination for decades, ever since the first legislation was introduced in 1983,” said Dr. Mira Jourdan, Co-Chair of Fair and Equal Michigan and a Neuropsychologist. “This proposal would simply add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to existing Civil Rights law to make sure LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination, under the law, just like everyone else. It is time to finally right this wrong once and for all.”

Honorary Leadership Committee (still growing):

Dr. Mira Jourdan, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan, Neuropsychologist

Alanna Maguire, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; President, Fair Michigan Foundation

Jeynce Poindexter, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; LGBTQ Community Activist

Trevor Thomas, Co-Chair Fair and Equal Michigan; Board Chair, Equality Michigan Action

Julisa Abad, Director of Trans Advocacy, Fair Michigan

Tonya Allen, Philanthropic Leader in SE Michigan

Tommy Allen, Publisher, Rapid Growth Media; President, Grand Rapids Pride Center; &

Chair, Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission

Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, NAACP Detroit Branch

Diane Antishin, Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, DTE Energy

Susy Avery, former chair, Michigan Republican Party

Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D., Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, Grand Valley State University

Mark Bernstein, President, The Sam Bernstein Law Firm, PLLC

Rabbi Amy B. Bigman, Congregation Shaarey Zedek

Randy Block, partner to Gerry Crane

Charity Dean, Director of Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity, City of Detroit; & Commissioner, Michigan Women’s Commission

Brandon Dillon, former Chair, Michigan Democratic Party

Katie Rogala Fahey

Rev. Leslee Fritz, Albion First United Methodist, former Dep. Dir. of the Dept. of Civil Rights

Hon. Tracy Hall, Kalamazoo County Commissioner and Board Member, OutFront Kalamazoo

Brandon Hofmeister, Senior Vice President, Consumers Energy

Hon. Derek Dobies, Chief of Staff, Michigan AFL-CIO and Mayor of Jackson

Rick Johnson, former Michigan Speaker of the House, 2001 – 2004

Hon. Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan Education Fund & Action Network and Mayor Pro-Tem of Kalamazoo

Hon. Mel Larsen, former Member, Michigan House of Representatives and co-sponsor of Michigan’s Civil Rights Act of 1976

Leander LeSure, Executive Vice President, Herman Miller

Richard McLellan, Transition Chairman to Governor John Engler

Ronald Moore, Board Member, Equality Michigan & Equality Federation

Hon. Jason Morgan, Chairman, Washtenaw County Commission

Noreen K. Myers, Employment Attorney, Noreen K. Myers PLC

Chuck Otis, Board Member, Equality Michigan

Travis Radina, President, Jim Toy Community Center and LGBTQ Liasion, Mayor of Ann Arbor

Lilianna Reyes, LGBTQ Advocate

Hon. Andy Schor, Mayor of Lansing

Hon. Joe Schwarz, former Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Angela Thompkins, former Assistant Prosecutor, City of Detroit

Cynthia L. Thornton, President, Pride at Work Michigan and General Board Member, Michigan AFL-CIO

Jim Toy, Co-Founder of the Spectrum Center

Selma Tucker, Vice President, Public Sector Consultants

Louis Vega, President, Dow North America

The Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act was passed in 1976 to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign is the next evolution of Michigan’s support for the LGBTQ community. Until 2018, Michigan had barred the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from taking calls reporting discrimination to their hotline. The Commission now is reviewing cases of reported discrimination. Meanwhile, Equality Michigan’s hotline reported 1,000+ calls for help in the past four years.

Once the petition is approved by the Board of State Canvassers, Fair and Equal Michigan has until May 27, 2020, to submit petitions including the signatures of at least 340,047 Michigan voters. Once enough valid signatures are submitted, the Michigan Legislature will have 40 days to adopt the proposed amendments to the Act without change. If the Legislature does not Act, or rejects the proposal, it is submitted to Michigan voters for approval at the November 3, 2020, General Election. According to research by the non-partisan Glengariff Group, 77 percent of voters support the measure.

Michigan wastes massive amounts of food.

Here’s how it can be rescued to improve people’s health.

Reposted from Second Wave-Michigan State of Health Series

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Food Rescue US reports that over 50 million Americans are food insecure, while over 40 billion meals are wasted each year — and 40% of the U.S. food supply rots in landfills. The solution is obvious: deliver this food to people who need it instead of to the dump. Food rescue operations in Michigan are doing their best to make that happen – and positively affecting public health in the process.

According to a Centers for Disease Control report, A Public Health Opportunity Found in Food Waste, “The United States has an epidemic of food insecurity and obesity that coexists in the same population (low-income families on a budget). Moreover, fruits and vegetables, which are linked to improving health and preventing chronic disease, are also perishable and commonly wasted.”

Obesity and the chronic diseases associated with it — diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, sleep apnea, and some cancers — are only a few of the medical issues resulting from poor nutrition. Behavioral health issues can take root in a poor diet, too. And as housing, childcare, and transportation costs viciously outpace wages, more and more working families are finding themselves without the means to provide good food for their families.

Kirk Mayes, CEO of Forgotten Harvest, a food rescue organization serving Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, says the need for emergency food is increasing despite improvements in state employment numbers. A lot of working people live paycheck to paycheck, and any life crisis can put them in a vulnerable situation that forces them to choose between buying food and paying the rent.

“Inflation has outpaced wages for decades, so people struggle to keep up,” Mayes says. “It’s more difficult for the average family to keep pace with rising expenses.”

Emergency food can provide those families a way to get their health back on track.

angie.jpgGood food = good health

Samantha McKenzie is president and CEO of Hidden Harvest, another Michigan food rescue serving the Bay, Midland, and Saginaw region.

“All of our food pantries say that they are getting more and more people who have never been to a pantry before,” she says. “We take a resource that already exists and make sure it gets put on the dinner table instead of in the garbage bin. Our donors don’t want to throw away good food. They feel real positive about where it’s going and we’re happy to share it.”

In 2018, 300 donors gave Hidden Harvest 2.5 million pounds of food — about 200,000 pounds a month. Hidden Harvest delivers the rescued food to 170 nonprofits including soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and youth programs.

oranges.jpgHidden Harvest’s food rescue efforts directly integrate good nutrition into the healthcare system through donations to substance abuse rehab centers, where food donations free up funds for treatment options; and health clinics like Saginaw’s Hearth Home, which treats people living with HIV and AIDS.

“They need items high in protein and rich in vitamins and nutrients. We direct these foods their way as it helps their medications to be more effective,” McKenzie says. “Fresh produce is a proven cancer preventative. There are many positive reasons why good health depends on having a well-rounded diet.”

Forgotten Harvest’s 30 refrigerated trucks glean food from 400 partners at 800 locations — grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers growing food in Macomb County and Ontario, Canada. The nonprofit also grows food on 100 acres of land in Fenton.

“If we’re giving them corn, it’s probably an ear,” Mayes says. “If it’s green beans, it’s a bunch, not a can. We’re one small part of the set of things people got to do to be healthy.”

Because the operation specifically takes in food that no longer meets retail specs, nutrient-rich perishables like dairy products and meats are in abundance. From its warehouse in Oak Park, the full-time drivers deliver to more than 250 pantries, churches, community centers, and community-based organizations with food-related missions.

“We see a little bit of everything,” Mayes says. “There is no shortage of variety in the things we come across.”

Grocery stores do their part

Kroger, ALDI, Trader Joe’s, and Meijer are among the many Michigan retailers who operate robust food rescue operations. Michigan-based Meijer’s effort began with 29 stores in southeast Michigan in 2008. Now all 235 of its stores rescue food, and they donated over 10.6 million pounds in 2018.

Many of Michigan’s smaller retailers take part in food rescue too. Busch’s Fresh Food Markets, a 15-store independent grocery chain headquartered in Washtenaw County, partners with Washtenaw County-based food rescue nonprofit Food Gatherers, as does the single-location People’s Food Co-op of Ann Arbor.

sausgae.jpgThe Co-op rescues about 200 pounds of food a month, not as an afterthought but to support its primary goal of promoting health and economic justice. Its donations include fresh produce and dairy products, as well as canned and boxed goods.

“We actually have a bunch of different reasons for rescuing food,” says Angie Voiles, Peoples Food Co-op general manager. “Through our commitment to the triple bottom line, it is environmentally sustainable to rescue and donate food instead of putting it into a landfill. From a social justice perspective, the co-op was founded and continues to strive to provide access to healthy food throughout the entirety of our community, at the retail level and also through food rescue.”

Voiles says her own health improved after switching to a whole foods diet. She believes that confirms research that has found eating fresh produce and less-processed foods contributes to improved physical and mental health.

“We want to get healthy, whole foods into the hands of as many people as possible,” she says.

Silver linings, logistics, and a long way to go

Rescued food can include much more than grocery store items nearing a sell-by date. Shipping or packaging errors, or failure to reach other specifications that have nothing to do with quality, can turn perfectly good food into waste. Mayes says well over 75 billion pounds of food is classified as waste in the U.S. every year.

In addition to helping more Michiganders be healthy, food rescue helps donor businesses by reducing disposal costs and providing tax breaks. It also helps the environment by diverting food waste from the landfill to the table.

“You never know when there’s going to be a truck accident, a shipment that a shipping company doesn’t know what to do with, weddings cancelled because of soap-opera stuff, a catering company doing an outdoor event in terrible weather, or a funeral dinner with leftovers,” McKenzie says. “We put it to good use. There’s always a silver lining.”

However, food rescue efforts are making only a small dent in the vast amounts of food waste. Feeding America, one of the country’s largest food rescue organizations, reports having rescued just 3.5 billion of the 72 billion pounds of food wasted last year in the U.S.

Experts from the state’s food industry, healthcare systems, government, and nonprofit sectors need to forge even more successful collaborations to ensure that healthy foods are not thrown away, but instead made readily available to all Michigan residents, starting with children and those experiencing chronic illness.

“Food insecurity is unfortunately a problem that is prevalent in almost every underserved and middle-class community in America,” Mayes says. “The volume of food rescue food puts us in a place where addressing hunger is no longer a food problem. It’s a logistics problem.”

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.

Hidden Harvest photos by Ben Tierney. Angie Voiles photo courtesy of Ken Davis.

 

Driver’s licenses for all would make health, economic, and community impacts

Michigan-Drivers-License-for-All_840x480Lack of transportation is a social determinant that directly impacts health by limiting access to healthy food and medical care.  It also makes it hard to keep a job. According to a report released today from the Michigan League for Public Policy restoring driver’s licenses for undocumented Michiganders would also bring the State $100 million in new revenue over 10 years. Here’s what a 12/19.2019 MLPP media release shared:

State law allowed undocumented residents to receive driver’s licenses until 2008, and the new information from the League reinforces the far-reaching benefits of renewing that policy. The Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom and the Economy) legislation would allow state driver’s licenses for all residents, and the bills were introduced in November by Sens. Stephanie Chang and Winnie Brinks and Reps. Alex Garza and Rachel Hood.

“The economic impact is important, but what we’re really talking about here is belonging. We’re talking about parents being able to take their kids to the doctor, to visit grandma, to get to school events. We’re talking about the fact that everyone living in Michigan should have an identity,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

If the Drive SAFE bills pass, an estimated 55,000 Michigan residents would pass driver’s tests and become licensed, leading to 20,000 vehicle purchases. Fees, registration and taxes from those two factors alone would result in $12 million in annual recurring revenue for the state. This does not take into account the positive impacts on local economies.
“Access to a driver’s license affects the amount of money people earn and spend. It’s imperfect, but it’s a fact: Being a Michigander often means being dependent on cars. When people can get to and from their jobs, they’re able to work more hours and earn more money. They’re able to expand the number of places they can shop and increase the amount of money they spend,” Jacobs said.

With 20,000 more Michigan drivers becoming insured and passing driver’s tests, roads will be safer and accidents resolved more quickly. The Drive SAFE bills would also lead to reduced auto insurance premiums.

Dozens of statewide organizations including the Michigan Farm Bureau, the ACLU of Michigan, the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Nurses Association support the Drive SAFE bills, and the Washtenaw, Oakland and Kalamazoo county commissions have passed resolutions in support of driver’s licenses for all. If the bills pass, Michigan will join 14 other states that provide access to a driver’s license or ID, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A 15th state, New Jersey, passed legislation yesterday that will allow immigrants without legal status to get a driver’s license, which is expected to be signed into law.