Michigan Elder Justice Initiative Awarded Funding from Metro Health Foundation to Improve Access to Services for Older Adults

Mon, 10/19/2020

For Immediate Release
Contact: Alyson Robbins

Michigan Elder Justice Initiative Awarded Funding from Metro Health Foundation to Improve Access to Services for Older Adults

Detroit, MI (October 19, 2020) -- Michigan Elder Justice Initiative (MEJI) is the recipient of a grant from the Metro Health Foundation. MEJI is thrilled to receive this award and will use the funds to explore the barriers to eligibility and enrollment, inappropriate denials of services, and rights violations and racial disparities of several home and community based services programs in the Detroit area.

The devastating impact of COVID-19 on nursing home residents has prompted increasingly urgent calls for the expansion of home and community based services to support older adults and people with disabilities in their own homes and communities instead of in nursing homes. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) oversees many programs that offer home and community based service to low income beneficiaries. The MI Choice Home and Community Based Waiver Program (MI Choice), the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), the MI Health Link waiver program, and Home Help all offer beneficiaries the promise of better health, better quality of life, and dignity and autonomy in the setting the beneficiary chooses. However, the programs’ considerable promise is not always fully realized and many Detroit area consumers are on long waiting lists. At what is often the most challenging and confusing time in their lives, beneficiaries struggle to learn about the programs, meet eligibility guidelines, understand the complex and distinct rules for each program, obtain the services and supports they require, appeal any adverse decisions, and maintain eligibility.

Currently, residents of licensed long term care settings and individuals enrolled in the MI Health Link waiver have access to MEJI’s established and successful ombudsman services. Beneficiaries enrolled in MI Choice and PACE, who have the same vulnerabilities, do not have designated advocates. When they experience common problems including difficulty gaining prompt access to PACE or MI Choice, adverse level of care determinations, care plans that fail to meet their needs or are not person-centered, reductions or terminations of services, rights violations, or Medicaid eligibility issues, they have nowhere to turn. This partnership between MEJI and the Metro Health Foundation is a first step in remedying this.

MEJI’s Director Alison Hirschel explained: “With support from Metro Health, MEJI has the opportunity to examine the challenges and roadblocks to receiving home and community based services in the Detroit area. Our hope for the future is that this grant will help improve access to services and serve as a launching pad for similar advocacy efforts across the state.”

Alison Hirschel, Director of Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, and Dan Wojciak, MI Health Link Ombudsman, are available for interviews on this subject and can be reached at hirschel@meji.org and dwojciak@meji.org.

MEJI engages in advocacy on behalf of older adults and people with disabilities on issues including long term care, public benefits, individual rights, and elder abuse. MEJI houses both the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program and the MI Health Link Ombudsman program. Our staff of lawyers and advocates represent individual clients, support advocates for older adults across the state, collaborate with community partners, and engage in legislative and policy advocacy and public education efforts on issues of critical importance to vulnerable adults. MEJI is a program of Michigan Statewide Advocacy Services administered by Michigan Advocacy Program. meji.org

Metro Health Foundation is a private Detroit grant-making foundation supporting Michigan organizations in health care and health-related fields.