There are strikingly memorable events which deserve something beyond celebration. The closure of the states’ institutions and Intermediate Care Facilities was one of those. So too is the passage of legislation to ban the use of seclusion and restraint in our schools.
Both were long sought outcomes and had a lengthy history of effort, with some successes and many failures. Each was a seminal achievement with many champions and heroes. Remembering those efforts and saluting the heroes provides something beyond the well-deserved celebration in which we are all engaging. At the risk of offending someone or some entity by leaving them out, I feel compelled to offer my thank you to those who my, far from perfect, memory recalls having played a significant role in getting us to this point.
I don’t believe anyone is more deserving of our gratitude and respect for magnificent leadership and courage than Lt. Governor Calley. His unrelenting efforts and perseverance as well as his consummate skill and acumen clearly brought us to this point. The Arc Michigan thanks you sir, on behalf of this states students with disabilities. Because of your efforts, the future for many of them and their families is significantly brighter.
The role of Tom Watkins in this effort deserves special recognition. He joined with a workgroup of the Howell Group to address this issue. His authorship of a number of articles and acting as an emissary to the Lt. Governor for the Howell Group was instrumental. Other members of this workgroup were Calvin and Tricia Luker, my decidedly better half, Sally Burton Hoyle, Mark McWilliams, Liz Bauer, Jim Dehm and Chris Hench. Members of this group survived the Department’s workgroup on Supporting Student Behavior addressing this issue more than a decade ago. Many of the others on this large workgroup were practitioners of the very practices we were seeking to eliminate.
Chris Hench was responsible for reinvigorating the Howell Group on this issue. That group had long carried the torch for the ban, but Chris’s impassioned telling of a recent experience moved us to renewed action. I believe the members of the Howell Group should be recognized and commended for their efforts across many years.
Liz Bauer’s effort across many years warrants an enormous thank you. While the Department of Education policy on eliminating seclusion and restraint was good policy it lacked the ability for enforcement. Liz’s tremendous effort to make it more meaningful wasn’t successful back then but the quality of the policy is a credit to her work and reputation. She was very active prior and certainly since her work on the State Board of Education, around this issue.
The outstanding effort of Mark McWilliams and MPAS across a couple of decades deserves special recognition. Mark’s expertise and passion were constant and his efforts tireless and invaluable, for what we achieved. Every attempt regarding this effort in public schools bears his imprint including this final one.
We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge efforts on the adult mental health side. It provided such a dichotomy with the way schools treated essentially the same people and sometimes the same person. In the late 70’s and early 80’s Jerry Provencal and I discussed the need to establish a “violence free zone”, in places where persons, with developmental disabilities were served. I commend Jerry for those efforts which led to the Gentle Teaching of John McGee and the particular ban on the use of seclusion and restraint both at MORC and Community Living Services. The leadership, staff and providers for both organizations have demonstrated over and over again the efficacy of positive behavior supports for persons considered to have the most significant behavior problems and, importantly, without the use of seclusion and restraint. Subsequent efforts under the leadership of Mike Head, Judy Webb and others at the then Department of Community Health reinforced and renewed the effort as policy. Medicaid now bans seclusion and restraint to receive funding for community services.
The support of the Arc’s sister agencies, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, The Epilepsy Foundation, UCP Michigan, the Autism Society of Michigan and DDI-WSU, and most certainly Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services, Inc. was tremendous. They have been a part of this effort since its inception.
The local chapters of the Arc deserve special recognition. Consistently, they have supported the effort. Their advocacy with our elected officials on a regular basis and especially lately are to be lauded. They have met personally, written letters and email and called in support of the bills. We thank them for their hard work and dedication. It really made a difference!
Finally, I want to be sure that we remember the sacrifice Michael Renner-Lewis III, and his family, paid for the use of restraint. I am sure it is of little solace to his family, but for many of us his needless death has helped fuel our effort to end the use of such barbaric practices. We hope this ban prevents any future loss of life and in some small way serves to memorialize his sacrifice.
Director of Public Policy
The Arc Michigan