“MORC” or the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, is perhaps known to more people around the globe than it is to people around the state. Citizens and people under the Michigan Capitol Dome should know more about an organization supported with state and federal tax dollars to serve some of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens.
MORC is a human services agency that coordinates long-term supports for individuals with behavioral health, physical and intellectual disabilities and the elderly in Southeast Michigan. Their mission is as direct as it is profound: “To maximize human potential.” And they do just that each and every day for thousands of individuals and their families.
While MORC is not a household name in Michigan, if you visit their office you will see acknowledgments from countless counties around the globe who have studied the person-centered approach MORC employs to empower the people they support and serve.
MORC offers a diverse array of services for people of all ages and abilities.
Eligibility for services may vary based on service type, location and medical necessity. Their services include:
• Support Coordination
• Home Choices
• Vocational Services
• Respite Services
• Peer Mentoring
• Children and Family Services
• Autism Services
• Clinical Services
• Occupational Therapy
• Speech Therapy
• Nursing Home Transition
• Supports Needs Assessments
MORC has one of the largest provider networks in the State, with over 300 direct care partners to give you the greatest amount of choice possible to coordinating your services.
When a consumer and their family choose MORC as their provider, they unlock decades of global knowledge and commitment that will unleash an authentic life. The individual served has the power to design their own care plan and to decide what is right for them. Individuals are encouraged to tell the exceptional MORC team their needs, goals and dreams. The professional staff will help guide the individual, family and other loved ones through the services and supports that will help them achieve their personalized vision.
MORC’s innovative, person-centered approach leads to more successful outcomes and a greater sense of independence. This is obviously good for the individual, their family and society as a whole.
MORC, like other publicly governed nonprofit organizations place service and outcomes over the bottom line and profits placing the needs of the consumers and taxpayers above all else. The transformation of the service system from “out of sight, out of mind” state institutions, to group homes or those owning their own home, has been remarkable and universally acknowledged.
Michigan has historically been on the cutting edge of change and improvement.
Liz Bauer, a former CEO of Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, elected member of the State Board of Education, MORC board member and parent of a person who has been supported by MORC, has this to say about the values, support and services offered since MORC was established as a state agency in 1970 (MORC became a non-governmental organization in 1996):
“From the beginning the focus has been on creating opportunities for people using services. Self-determination, independence, productivity, and inclusion in community are among the desired outcomes for each individual. MORC pioneered new models for staff development recognizing the skills, knowledge, and attitudes of those providing nurturing services are equally important. Training for direct care professionals fosters a culture of gentleness rooted in the principles of safety, mutual respect, and purposeful engagement with others. Although service delivery systems have changed with the times, MORC’s belief in the dignity and worth of every individual and its mission to maximize human potential has not wavered. MORC continues to provide outstanding person -centered services designed to meet the unique needs and desires of each individual.”
Chris Hench, a parent of an adult son with a disability and with over three decades working in the field of intellectual and developments disabilities and advocating on their behalf captures the transformation this way:
“For many decades, MORC has been a world-wide leader in providing supports for people with disabilities. MORC took people out of institutions when the consensus was that they could never be supported in the community. In the beginning, these individuals went to live in group or foster homes. Over the years, MORC offered more and more individualized options for people with disabilities and their families. As a parent, there is no greater joy than to see your child get to make a choice about where to live, to have a voice in who works with him, to have a job he enjoys, to see him welcomed by name by the waitress at the neighborhood Coney Island, to see him attend the farmers market and be greeted by the sellers, to be an integral part of a local club, to have a meaningful life.”
She continues, “To think the governor and legislature would turn this system of care over to profit-making insurance companies would be a travesty—they are interested in only one thing– “profits”, not in helping people reach their full potential.”
Mark of Approval
While the best “accreditation” or Good Housekeeping seal of approval comes from people supported and their families, MORC is proud to have achieved three-year accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance for Case Management for Long Term Services and Supports. This national recognition demonstrates the entire team’s commitment to delivering the highest standards of quality to people and their families in need.
All at Risk
All the services and the values and level of professionalism of the MORC service are at risk as the state, in an attempt to shirk its responsibility and transfer this public responsibility from a service mode to a profit mode, and shift these services from the open and transparent public governance model to a private and profit model.
Governor Snyder’s fiscal 2017 budget called for privatizing the $2.4 billion public mental health system by turning over state funding to the private insurance companies/Medicaid Health Plans. Because of a severe public backlash, this train to profitize the public behavioral health system has been delayed. The consumers, parents and advocates have won several battles since the stealth attack on the public system in 2017, but the war rages on.
Parents, consumers and advocates fear that the valued and progressive Michigan public mental health safety net will be ripped to shreds. Family members and consumers worry about change, losing long-term relationships with trusted providers and new rules that limit service. Given the struggles to get what they have, their worries are not without merit.
The governor and legislature have not given up on their plans, and its interpretations sent shivers down the spines of parents and advocates of persons with serious mental illness, substance uses disorders and intellectual and developmental disabilities. While there are denials, there is great fear among advocates the governor and Republican legislature are lying in wait to pass a mental health profitization bill in the lame duck legislative session. This would transfer billions of your tax dollars to the insurance industry to “manage,” and profit from.
The Community Mental Health Association of Michigan
(https://www.macmhb.org), under the leadership of CEO Bob Sheehan, has stood tall to protect the public mental health system for over a half-century. The next wave of attack, coming as soon as the primary elections are over, could be a tsunami that will destroy a valued system of care—if the citizens allow it.
Moving forward, the dialog around this issue needs to be open, transparent and inclusive with the state, community mental health organizations, health plans, hospitals, consumers and advocacy groups. An open and collaborative approach with all stakeholders will produce better results.
Let’s work together to enhance the care, support and opportunities for our family members with an illness or disability. Everything we do should create opportunities and a life of dignity and self-determination for our fellow citizens. We ought to proceed as though our actions will impact someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or son or daughter — because ultimately it will.
Tom Watkins has an eclectic career in both the public and private sectors. He served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and director of the department of mental health. He has held leadership positions in higher education, business and behavioral health. Watkins has a interest and passion in all things China and has written hundreds of article on the value of this most important bilateral relationship in the world today.