Disability Awareness & Advocacy, Mental Health, Uncategorized

In Defense of the Vulnerable – How the Complaint/Appeals Process in Michigan Makes Life Worse

This is all about our most vulnerable citizens. Our friends and family members. All of our loved ones. It’s about those people who are elderly and the disabled who have no family or friends and are at the mercy of those put in charge to make sure that they are cared for. The elderly can be disabled. The disabled can be elderly. Some people are born disabled and others are disabled in accidents and by poor life choices. It happens. Be compassionate. Some are disabled by sickness and disease. No one asked for any of this. There should not be any blame. We’re all unique and are who we are through our life experiences. Namaste’.

EVERYONE isn’t that far away from losing it all – and being poor. Accidents and illnesses happen every day.

We all need to stick together and support each other.

Remember this – everyone in their lifetime will become disabled in some form. Let that one sink in. So…

Below are the beginning questions on the State of Michigan Department of Attorney General’s (AG) Consumer Complaint/Inquiry Form. I looked to the AG on behalf of my son. I had previously filed a recipient rights complaint and went through that process and appeals, locally and at the state-level, which turned out to be a total waste of my son’s time. Six months of his life gone and no one was held accountable for the harm and long-term damage caused. All involved and responsible, got to walk away with no consequences for the medical neglect that he endured and is still dealing with physically.

And so…

Here is the MI Attorney General’s Consumer Complaint/Inquiry Form here (to print out) and online here (to fill in online).

Please be aware of the following:

Complaints and inquiries become public records when they are submitted to the Attorney General’s office, and under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, copies may be subject to disclosure to anyone who asks for them.

A copy of the complaint will be sent to the business against whom the complaint is issued. An accurate company Fax number will expedite processing.”

(OMG, they actually want to EXPEDIATE this process!)

– A copy of the complaint may be sent to other governmental agencies.

(So if your complaint is against a government agency, you’re fucked.)

” – Please be particularly cautious with information containing your Social Security number, credit card account numbers, etc. for security purposes. If you believe it is necessary to submit such information, you should mail that information and the corresponding complaint instead of sending it electronically.

Do not use punctuation when providing names and addresses.

Wow. Just wow. Nothing like putting a target on your back, eh? No guarantees of protection from retaliation. No protections at all. So if you’re making a complaint against ANYONE (could include a local, county, state business, agency or department) they get a head’s up – so that they can harass you, “threaten” you, retaliate against you in all kinds of ways.

I called the Michigan Attorney General’s office, without giving my name (of course), to ask about “protection against retaliation” if I filed a complaint.

I was told that I probably wouldn’t have to worry (right away), because whoever I was filing a complaint against wouldn’t know “immediately” that I was filing a complaint (unless you fax it – see above- so that the AG’s office can EXPEDIATE the process).

I was told that it would take at least a couple of weeks to fulfill any “freedom of information” (FOIA) request – without mention of the fact that “A copy of the complaint WILL be sent to the business against who the complaint is issued” – so then what? Sit tight?

Oh joy. That just makes me want to get right out there, jump up and down, and scream from the rooftops that my son was harmed. Not.

When I asked this question (about protection from retaliation), the person in the AG’s office had to leave the phone to go “ask someone” about it. Why? Because apparently, no one had ever asked that question before?! Fuck me! Really?

So WHY would anyone ever want to open themselves up to retaliation (which comes in many forms and degrees of severity), making their lives and the lives of their loved one more miserable (and potentially more dangerous)?

I’m curious to know how it works in YOUR state?

I’ve also learned, per personal experience, that the State of Michigan has stacked the deck against any form of justice or accountability/responsibility when it comes to their own legislature, under Michigan’s Mental Health Code.

This ONE paragraph in the decision letter that I received from the MI Department of Health and Human Services (how ironic) DESTROYED any hope of the truth coming out and overcoming evil, while proceeding to hold those responsible for the damage that they caused. It said:

“The Department will review the requested information and either uphold the original decision or return this matter to the (local/original) community mental health for additional investigation and consideration”.

WHY? Why would anyone think that this would be reasonable ANYWHERE, but especially in the United States of America? When it comes to full-disclosure; gathering ALL of the facts, with the expectancy that there would be no conflict of interest, where is the fairness and justice in how appeals are handled? Why would the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services/Department of Recipient Rights send this BACK TO THE LOCAL APPEALS COMMITTEE TO….. what? …. rule against a decision they’d already made? It certainly gives the appearance of protecting their collective backs – at the expense of my son who was neglected and harmed.

I’m betting that this has happened to many individuals and families in the State of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services can do this legal “roundabout”, according to Michigan’s Mental Health Code. (when I locate this elusive mental health code, rule or reg, I will edit this post and add that part). I had it at one time, but I have stacks and stacks of records and files and I want to get this published.

The only way to change (the unfairness/conflict of interest/lack of protection from retaliation) is through legislature (I’m told) – which I’ve looked into and believe me, it’s not happening. I am still waiting two months out for my son’s state representative to get back to me. I am not holding my breath. I’m too smart (experienced) for that now.

Isn’t that sad? It’s no-man’s land out there. But I still keep on keeping on. I’ll figure it out, and when I do it will be all for the good.

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Disability Awareness & Advocacy, guardianship, Uncategorized

Update: Emily Delph – Still Suffering to Survive in Michigan.

Small in stature, with severe, multiple disabilities (cerebral palsy being one diagnosis), Emily Delph continues to be large in her determination to survive a broken legal (probate court) system in Michigan and currently inadequate medical care, on the west side of this state. Michigan is called the Great Lakes, but there’s nothing great about the medical neglect and yes, abuse, happening to Emily since she was taken from her mom. Emily is languishing and deteriorating in a nursing home – when she should be home with her mom, receiving the great care she’s always received. She should be home with her lights and toys, computer, movies, therapies, community outings, music; being engaged, entertained, happy, but now….. she has nothing.

There were NO neglect or abuse charges (there never was) against Holly Delph – and the court recognizes and everyone who has testified (10/24/2019) agrees, that before Emily was taken from her home and her mom (09/17/2019), that she was well taken care of. Her health was not just maintained, but she thrived when her mom moved to stop looking to Network 180 to do what they were suppose to be in place to do (provide access to her community), and Holly moved ahead with warm water (pool) therapy and getting Emily involved in her community herself – going to special events. I will include pictures and video at the end of this post.

What actually happened is based entirely on the dislike of an older white woman towards a young, black woman – even though that black woman is severely limited (total care) physically and is nonverbal – which made Emily Delph an “easy mark” for an entitled, prejudiced, closed-minded, cruel bully to move in and do her worst. This is the type of person who can’t stand that someone like Emily would even exist – especially within “her” world, and worse, in this woman’s mind, Emily’s mom is white! Apparently, THAT was the last straw for this woman. I can’t believe that this is 2019 and there are antiquated, ass-backwards people like that still out there – but eh, look at the POTUS that we have today, who incites the worst of the worst . It’s repugnant.

REMEMBER WE MUST CONTINUE TO RESIST HATE!

When Emily’s mom, Holly Delph, got up to speak on behalf of her daughter during the Michigan Attorney General’s Elderly Abuse Task Force Tour, (which has proven to be a huge failure and mostly a PR stunt) held around the State of Michigan and in Kent County, this privileged white woman was OFFENDED. Yep, she was offended. It gets worse.

This woman had set up shop in the back of the room, as a Representative of Area on Aging in this county. You heard that right. She was suppose to be there as a support and resource for families and individuals in need. She was quite the opposite.

She was the beginning of Emily Delph’s imprisonment and medical neglect. This woman’s false accusations, without proof, sealed Emily’s fate. This was further perpetuated by a probate court system and judge who handed over Emily’s “case” (person) to a state-appointed, public guardian named Karin Van Sweden.

This Representative of Area on Aging said that Holly was “irrational” and “hitting her head”, which is not true (witnesses who were there have been located and will be providing testimony/affidavits). Holly didn’t even find out about “the why” of any of this until she went back to probate court on October 24th! Until then, she had NO real idea what happened, although there were some thoughts on this related to other false and misconstrued statements made on social media – you know…. “if it’s on the internet, it must be true” bullshit.

And to-date, Emily still does not have her wheelchair, orthotics (leg brace worth $3500), toys or clothing, while she is being held captive at The Laurels of Kent County (nursing home). Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has been called in to investigate. When asked by Michigan’s LARA where all of Emily’s things are, the court-appointed, public guardian commented that she “was afraid to bring in everything because they might get lost”. Just wow. Emily’s wheelchair is customized as are her orthotics (leg/foot braces) which provide for her positioning needs, so that Emily is held in comfortable, therapeutic positioning – to keep her from regressing physically. To my knowledge these items have yet to be produced. Who knows, maybe they’ve been sold. Who cares, right?

To further explain, for those who don’t understand how Community Mental Health in Michigan works (and believe me they all work differently, depending on which county you live in) and they all interact with the State of Michigan differently as well, I have included an explanation below.

Holly had tried to work with Network 180 for quite some time.

For those who are not familiar with Network 180, this is the same as with other Community Mental Health locations (county agencies) in Michigan. Sometimes mental health in different counties, go by different names. They are all in place under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They are suppose to be in place to support and serve not just those with mental illnesses; children and adults with Autism; challenging behaviors; those dealing with addiction issues, but they are also suppose to work with individuals who are developmentally-disabled (and of course their families).

Network 180 is based in Kent County (Grand Rapids), where Holly and Emily live. Network 180 was suppose to provide services and supports to Emily and Holly in the form of respite and community living supports, but because (their reasoning) Emily was “so disabled”, they couldn’t find trained/experienced workers to come in-home and those who could accompany Emily out into the community.

Unfortunately, community mental health has long been lacking in the area of providing appropriate/necessary supports and services to those who ALSO have physical disabilities – especially to those who have the severest forms. Within the State of Michigan, those who are developmentally-disabled AND more severely, physically-involved (severely, multiply-disabled) are indeed the minority within the disability community.

Those who are more medically-fragile, non-ambulatory and nonverbal are the most silent of the silent minority. Therefore, they are easily taken advantage of and too often are disenfranchised and so are their families. It’s next to impossible for these individuals and their families to fight for supports, services and their civil rights – as most of their time is spent simply getting by and surviving. So therefore my reason for trying to explain some of this to those who “just don’t know” or have no idea what’s going on here and in the State of Michigan right now.

Whether any of us would like to admit this or not; to recognize that discrimination does exist… it most certainly does. To ignore it, is not just to condone it, but to perpetuate it. Over the years, Holly “learned” that it does exist – as Emily, adopted from Haiti, is black. My understanding and I have heard this from more than one person, is that this part of Michigan is pervasively discriminatory and prejudice against those who are not white. Absolutely, attention needs to be drawn to that fact and how inhumane and disgusting that is.

And so here we are…. Or rather, here is where Emily is at.

“They don’t follow protocol about basic cleaning around stoma. There are big reasons why this nursing home has so many fines.”
and
“Emily is dying. I’m no longer going to be nice about staff. The condition I found her in was horrible. These people cant even clean a PEG.. her leg was all twisted. Found a stink bug”.
– Holly Delph –

Better times…..

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Developmental Disability, Disability Awareness & Advocacy, Uncategorized

A Child is Born – Part Two

The Neverending Story – The Nothing

This next post has to do with the reason that I decided to start a blog – and why I choose (at this point), to be anonymous. I may not always write well, but it’s still important to write – and put the truth out there for others to read. I hope that this might lead others to make a difference in their own communities – wherever that might be. Together, even one person at a time, we can right the wrongs in the world.

My son lives in Purgatory.

He’s neither here nor there when it comes to a good quality of life. It hasn’t been for my lack of trying to make it better. After all these years, I’ve hit a brick wall. It’s a wall of nothingness and nowhere. It’s impenetrable and feels like a presence; a thing that exists that seems physical – that I can’t see my way around. It’s a wall of apathy that appears to be growing day-by-day.

My son, who lives (I’ll say it again) in a group home, was medically neglected last year, and because of what didn’t happen is the reason that I felt that it was necessary to tell HIS story, which I believe is the story of many people. I know that this happens, every day, to many people in the United States and most certainly out there in the world. It’s happening at this very second.

I’ll add to that, the fact that no one in my morally and ethically irresponsible, backwards county even tries to understand that ALL people, even the most-involved – whether physically or developmentally-disabled – have the same feelings as ALL people do. Or if they somehow (in the deep recesses of their minds) know this on any kind of level – they don’t recognize the inherent right of each individual to be treated with kindness and respect – that is not based on some kind of monetary valuation. It shouldn’t “cost” to be considered a valuable human being. Every human being is valuable.

Max is a young man that lives with a small group of people who are old enough to be his grandparents and yet… taking a trip to Walmart or going through McDonald’s drive-thru is considered a “community outing” and he lives in a college town! There is a lot more to do here, but no one has any vision. No one cares and there is such a lack of creativity that it stymies and infuriates me. WTF?!

I could go on and on. Here, everyone in power, has that old-style, group home mentality thing going on. It’s miserable. It’s 2019. Not the 1970’s. Unfortunately, it does matter where you live. It matters which state you live in. It matters what county you live in. It matters what your base beliefs are and it matters what kind of people live in your community, as in are they good people who care or are they selfish and apathetic? And so what happens to many, many people in the United States (and I’m sure in other countries in the world… but I’m waiting to hear from others so I can include their personal stories in this blog)?

Warehousing. That’s what happens.

Those who are severely, multiply disabled and nonverbal – and have no way to communicate their wants, needs or desires in an “understandable” way to others who are not disabled, exist in a vacuum. They live in a kind of limbo-land. This includes the elderly who are developmentally-disabled and live in group homes. It happens in nursing homes. I’ve seen it up front, real and in-your-face.

This is the only place on this blog where I will write specifically about what happened. I have relayed the course of events to everybody that I know and all of those who are involved in Max’s life. This includes many advocacy groups/organizations at the state-level. This has led me to the horrendous realization that these are most certainly not in place to help individuals or their families. They’re more like money-raisers FOR the people that work there.

Back to Max.

Max had skin breakdown in the coccyx area. In the past, the plan had always been for him to have complete bed rest until healed – with of course scheduled range of motion and repositioning every 2 hours. Skilled nursing was called in by order of his primary care physician (PCP). The nurse, following dr’s orders, wrote in the notes that he was only to be out of bed for meals.

Almost a MONTH later she learned, and then I learned (after she notified me on the same day that she found out), that he was up and all over the group home, sitting up in his wheelchair, and out in the community going places – when he was only suppose to be out of bed for meals. What were they thinking? Why did this happen – especially considering what had been protocol for his care in the past?

After the nurse called me, I immediately called his PCP – who was out of the office on vacation. I spoke to a nurse practitioner (NP) – who was covering for the PCP. I explained what I had just discovered and we consulted.

It was agreed that the order would be faxed to the group home, that stated Max was to have “complete bed rest until healed” – and this was done. I have in my pile of documentation, a copy of this ONE page fax.

Probably within an hour of this, I received a phone call from a representative of the group home (contracted by the local CMH) telling me that Max would NOT be eating or drinking in bed.

So they willfully went against doctor’s orders and THEN got him up just for meals.

The nurse was lied to when she was told that they (the company that owned the group home) had a “written policy” that residents were not to eat or drink in bed, as this was reasoned as a choking hazard.

The nurse asked for this written policy. This was never given over because one didn’t exist. Of note, Max has a hospital-style bed where the head rises; the knees rise – either together or separate and the entire bed goes up and down! Many people are fed in bed and given drinks… you know…. like people in hospitals who are ordered to bedrest. What it REALLY came down to is that there weren’t enough staff for someone to sit or stand there to watch him after he ate – to make sure that he didn’t aspirate or vomit (reflux) for 15 minutes to ½ an hour. Not enough staff….not enough staff…. and this is how it goes in group homes across the nation. Number one reason – the pay sucks and the companies who own the group homes suck even bigger.

Max was harmed. The damage was already done. During the time that Max has lived in this group home, he’s lost a huge amount of weight. No one knows why at this point. He eats and he eats well. It’s still a mystery to be solved, but the seriousness of this grew when the medical neglect happened.

Because doctor’s orders weren’t followed, Max lost even more weight that he couldn’t afford to lose – from muscle atrophy. This has also exposed him to increased risk of worsening skin breakdown in the future. He no longer has a “butt” or the padding that goes with it! It took over a month from the time this began until it finally ended in healing …. because they never followed doctor’s from the beginning. If they would have followed what “worked”, and kept him in bed until healed, he would have probably been totally healed in 3 days (historically).

I filed a recipient rights complaint against the group home. I would like to note that my intent was that the complaint was suppose to include the local CMH, because THEY are the ones that contracted with this home to provide care for my son. Therefore, it has always been my opinion that they were just as responsible (culpable) when it comes to the care he receives… or not. The buck stops there. But THEY bowed out and didn’t do what they were in place to do. His CMH worker (as a titled social worker) was by definition a mandated reporter. She didn’t do her job. She did not protect Max. But within this system is a “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch my back” agreement. It happens in the court system as well. It happens in politics all the time. It seems to be the way-of-the-world.

So over the next SIX MONTHS I went through the process of denial at the local level (they said no wrong-doing) through the local CMH. Then I filed an appeal of this at the local level (again CMH), which led to another denial by the CMH’s appeals committee (was I really surprised?).

The next step was to file an appeal at the state-level, which was also denied.

Of note, I contacted Adult Protective Services (APS) once I discovered what happened and the resulting damage that not following orders caused Max. Ultimately the county APS investigator refused to take additional information and pictures from me – that further demonstrated the medical neglect. He said that he “had all that he needed and he had interviewed everyone”. He interviewed staff – who were afraid for their jobs. I live in the real-world and yes it happens. People lie; don’t tell the whole truth, etc. And it HURTS the vulnerable and it makes the world a miserable place. The struggle is real.

I was shocked when he told me this. I sat there mortified. I had just been confronted with actual corruption within a broken system! My eyes were finally open.

After I filed a complaint at the state-level (DHHS), I received a letter from them acknowledging receipt of my complaint, with the statement that they would get all information regarding this from the local CMH and they would either uphold the original decision (which was a denial) or refer it back to the local CMH for further consideration and investigation.

Now WHY would this be referred back to the CMH that denied it in the first place?

Well…. because it’s written into our state’s Mental Health Code.

How’s that for fucked up?

Max never had a chance. The deck was and is still stacked against him and others.

I contacted three different attorneys. None would take on this case. Want to know why? Because it wasn’t worth it to them. Period. Max didn’t die. Max healed. Max wasn’t permanently (further) maimed, disfigured or harmed (I could argue that). The harm wasn’t ongoing (I could argue this too – he ended up in Physical Therapy that I initiated on his behalf). It wasn’t worth their time and they wouldn’t let me explain anything further past their “intake interviews”. And I am poor. In fact I am below the poverty-level on SSI/Social Security.

The next step after denial at the state-level would have been to take it into court. I couldn’t afford to do that and none of the advocacy organizations that were suppose to be in place to help people with disabilities and their families would take this on. This is the world that we live in now.

But I’m not giving up.

I DO believe that it’s important for those reading this blog to see the TRUTH.

When I’m able, I will add blacked-out documents to this post, because it’s really happening, and I know that it’s happening to others – especially to others who have no one speaking for them or advocating for them.

And after all, this is …

The Underground Advocate!

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