Public Forums

Yesterday (March 26), I attended a public forum held by the Michigan Department of Community Mental Health. These forums are being held at various locations in the state because a new plan is being drafted to improve access to care for people with physical and mental disabilities and the elderly.  MCMH is  requesting input regarding the plan  from people who will be affected by it.

The current system consists of multiple agencies that don’t speak to each other and a way to increase  integration  of services is being created. When the plan is finished and implemented, there will be  agencies that act as a “care bridge” to coordinate services and supports to people with disabilities in the state. It should make for better integration of services.

There will be an ICO (Integrated Care Organization) and a PIHP (Prepaid Integrated Health Plan) that will work together to coordinate services for people with developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges. They will coordinate behavioral health, mental health and medical health  so that a person can go to one agency that will integrate the services that the client needs.

In Michigan, we have “self determination” and “person centered plans” that are already in operation where the client makes the choices for what services they want and need. This new plan should make it much easier for them to get supports and services.  Of course, PJ is not able to make these decisions himself, so I make his choices.

I am not going to confuse you with my confusion about all the details of the proposed change. I am telling you about this because I don’t know if you are aware of public forums where we can go to make our input. When a rule change comes about, the state solicits public input from stakeholders who are directly impacted by the changes. They want to know what is working, what is not working and where do we see gaps in services.

I appreciate the fact that we are  encouraged to speak up and say what we see that is right and what is wrong. In the 1970s and 1980s, I attended many of these public hearings and forums to voice my concerns and comments. I found that I couldn’t sit still and wait for someone else to say what was on my mind. I am thankful that we live in America where we have freedom of speech. My son can’t speak, so I have to speak for him and others like him. The fact that PJ can’t speak made me overcome my fear and reluctance to speak to a roomful of strangers.

When state agencies request public comments, they really want to hear what you have to say. It may not fix the problems but at the bare minimum, you  are doing what you can to be a part of the solution.  The outcome is out of your hands and we know that some problems are too massive for quick, simple solutions. The fact that they encourage participation and ask for ideas and suggestions makes me feel that they are trying to help our situations. I had no ideas or comments for yesterday’s forum but I attended so that I can be aware of proposed changes. If these changes come about, it will be an improvement in the existing  situation.

I had no idea that I would still need to be concerned about these issues after all these years.   I thought that my time for active public participation was over and did not plan to attend any more public hearings and forums. However, being the parent of an adult who may be affected by the changes pushed me out of my house to attend the meeting.  I remain “Inspired By Autism”.

Until next time: May you have Peace, Love and Prosperity in your life.

Claudreen Jackson


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