On December, 19, 2014 U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced that his Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law this afternoon by President Obama. The bill will allow families who have a child with a disability to save for their long-term care through 529-style savings accounts. The ABLE Act passed the Senate on Tuesday with a final vote of 76-16, and it passed the House last week with a final vote of 404-17. This legislation has been called “…the broadest legislation to help [people with disabilities] in nearly a quarter-century.” Read more.
On Monday, October 27, 2014 Governor Snyder issued Executive Directive 2014-1 requiring the state government adopt a variety of policies and procedures eliminating hurdles faced by people with disabilities as they seek a career in public service. Michigan must lead by example and provide a welcoming environment for people with disabilities, encouraging them to work in state government in a competitive, integrated setting, Gov. Rick Snyder said. Snyder also called for increased training for all state employees to raise awareness of disability etiquette and best practices, ensuring every employee is treated with dignity and respect at all times. “My administration is committed to eliminating barriers for those with disabilities who wish to enter the workforce,” Snyder said. “People with disabilities have much to offer our great state and should be provided the same opportunities for employment as everyone else. I expect all state departments and agencies to show leadership and work together to ensure that the disability employment program is successful.” Snyder in February 2013 established the bipartisan Mental Health and Wellness Commission, which has spent the past year working to identify gaps in our current mental health system and provide recommendations to address those gaps. The commission urges a statewide employment policy be created to honor the choices and goals of people with disabilities, recommends that the state government be a leader in adopting such employment practices. In coordination with the Civil Rights Department, the Civil Rights Commission, the Civil Service Commission, and the State Equal Opportunity and Diversity Council, Snyder directed a series of directives spanning state agencies and departments including: • Working with the Civil Service Commission and executive branch departments and agencies to provide clear objectives and opportunities for people with disabilities who seek a position in state government in an integrated setting. • Reviewing current training programs for all state employees to ensure they cover disability etiquette and best practice. All state employees should be trained by July 1, 2016. • Recommending to the Executive Office and all state departments and agencies a goal of hiring self-identified people with disabilities within state government. The ultimate goal is to increase the overall integrated employment of those with disabilities while maintaining the confidentiality of the employees’ personal information. • Working with the government and private sector to learn about best practices related to hiring people with disabilities.
On Tuesday October 28, 2014, MOKA hosted an informational session on Legal Planning as part of it's ongoing "Right Track Series." Individuals with disabilities, parents, family members, guardians and support teams learned about legal and financial planning from two experts: Catherine Jacobs from Cottrell and Jacobs PLC, the West Michigan Estate Planning Center, who discussed legal and planning issues for individuals with a disability. Lu Paletta, Financial Advisor, helped participants understand budgeting, investing, saving, estate planning and more. Watch for more "Right Track Series" in the future. . Click here for event flyer.
On October 29, 2014, three members of MOKA's Executive Team spoke at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy as part of their brown bag lunch series. Executive Director Thomas Zmolek, Director of Programs Tracey Hamlet and Dorothy Bowne, MOKA's Human Resources Directow presented on the topic of "Creating and Cultivating Your Nonprofit Culture." For more information on this topic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
On Friday, July 18, 2014 the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis awarded MOKA two grants in the amount of $198,000 each to support the development and construction of two new specialized residential programs in Muskegon County. The homes will be a new residence for individuals currently living in existing homes operated by MOKA in Muskegon Township and Norton Shores respectively. Floor plans are currently under final revision with land clearing and construction to commence shortly.
A recent open house was held to celebrate the opening of MOKA's newest specialized residential program in Belmont, a community nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan. The spacious home equipped with a wheelchair lift to access the lower walkout and a swimming pool, will be home to four individuals.
In collaboration with Community Mental Health Services of Muskegon County, MOKA employees recently began direct service as "Youth Autism Specialists" working with young children ages 18 months to five years old who have autism. Several employees working as Youth Autism Specialists using priniciples of Applied Behavior Analysis work directly with children to assist with learning new skills, emotional regulation and relationship building.
MOKA recently moved its regional office located on Kalamazoo Avenue in Grand Rapids to new offices located on Clyde Park Avenue in Kentwood. The new offices located at 5281 Clyde Park will provide both clinical and administrative support to MOKA's ten local specialized residential programs and community living supports. MOKA, whose main offices are located in Muskegon, currently supports over 800 individuals with developmental disabilities, autism and other disabilities in a six county area.
MOKA recently partnered with the local Knights of Columbus Council #11537 in carrying out a dinner dance fundraiser for the benefit of individuals with developmental and other disabilities. The event, held on Saturday February 15th attracted over 250 guests with entertainment provided by Buster's Blues Band. The first year event raised over $11,000 due to the successful efforts of both Knights and MOKA volunteers.