Monday, October 12, 2015

Water, Kids, a Doctor and Profit in Michigan

DEQ Director Dan Wyant
Dan Wyant, Michigan Director of DEQ

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a hero in more ways than one.

To begin, she was able to successfully introduce empirical science into Michigan child welfare policy making.

The numbers made the argument.  As there is an increase in the levels of lead in the water, there is a direct and perfect correlation with cognitive and psychological developmental disabilities in children as well as an adverse effect in the economic well-being of the population.  This is well documented, yet was blatantly ignored by the state.  Here is why:

It almost seems the Department of Environmental Quality was creating conditions to solicit the federal government on securing funding to repair and update Flint's water system under a private contractor, but who am I to make such a sensational statement?

Medicaid in child welfare has no oversight mechanism and its billing is easily manipulated which makes this a political issue.  Child poverty and its resulting disabilities maximize revenue for its privatized, not-for-profit programs under the Medicaid expansion.

There is no reason why DEQ could not confer with DHHS when issues dealing with the safety and well-being of children were raised and slammed on the table to be addressed by the Doctor and her team.  These administrators need to be held accountable for intentionally allowing children of Michigan to suffer.  There needs to be an investigation and public hearing to find out why this was allowed to happen.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha uncovered another Medicaid fraud scheme in child welfare, and that is what makes her a real hero.

Flint doctor makes state tell lead truth

Spokesman apologizes for questioning results

Under the steady gaze of a watercolor giraffe and tissue paper butterflies, a Flint pediatrician and mother of two last month forced the state of Michigan to snap to attention.
But getting the state to concede the probability that Flint's water is poisoning its children with lead  —after months of assurances from both city and state officials that the water is safe — was far from easy.
It required Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, 38, to side-step bureaucracy. It meant awkward conversations and putting her hospital —city-owned Hurley Medical Center — smack-dab in a political minefield.
And it meant checking her data “a zillion times,” she said, then second-guessing herself to the point of being physically ill when a state spokesman questioned her credibility.
Just hours after state officials acknowledged her data, Hanna-Attisha felt equal parts exhausted and vindicated — at one moment laughing at congratulatory e-mails and comments from colleagues (Maybe they'll give you a lead key to the city, one had quipped), at another reciting sobering statistics about the life-long damage from lead poisoning: irreversible brain damage, development delays, speech problems, a boosted risk for behavioral issues, serious chronic conditions, to name a few.
"It has been such a physiologic response," she said of her look at the numbers and the state's reaction. She sat in her office, where children's artwork hangs haphazardly on the walls. A pink-lettered sign on her door — This is my fight song, it reads — pays homage to Hurley's youngest cancer patients.
"At times I want to cry and then I’m so happy," she said.
But then Hanna-Attisha,a pediatrician for many of Flint's poorest families whose training and experience has focused on environmental toxins and health disparities, shook her head.
"But then I’m tearful because how could this have happened in 2015 when all these regulations are in place (to ensure clean water)? For a population that has every burden in the world already, this is the last thing they needed," she said.
In retrospect, Attisha served as the canary in the coalmine in this latest public health crisis — the doctor who spotted a problem and wouldn't let it go until others paid attention, said Dr. Eden Wells, the state’s chief medical executive.
"She was a doc on the front lines who knows to pick up the phone ... rattle some cages and say 'Hey, come here, we’ve got a problem,'" Wells said.
It began over a dinner party with high school friends Aug. 26.
Among Hanna-Attisha's guests was a friend who played piano at her wedding and is also a water-quality expert. The conversation turned to the issue of the drinking water. Have you looked at kids' blood-lead levels? the friend asked.
Hanna-Attisha was not only intrigued, but also perfectly positioned for such a data dive.
She heads the pediatric residents program at Hurley and is a pediatrics and human development professor at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. She sits on the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, too.

In short, she lives as much on the research side of medicine as she does the clinical side.
So she knew that routinely drawn blood-led level data existed for thousands of Flint-area children, especially those on Medicaid or who live in high-risk areas for lead exposure. The following week, she turned to the Genesee County Health Department for its blood-lead level data.
She was disappointed. Test results are kept in individual patient files and could not be easily analyzed, Genesee County health officer Mark Valacak told Hanna-Attisha.
Undaunted, she asked the state for its analysis of the same blood-level data for Flint.
In the meantime, local and state officials were facing mounting pressure from residents who had already complained that the water smelled and tasted funny.
In mid-September, a Virginia Tech researcher and lead expert, Marc Edwards, concluded from his testing of Flint water it was 19 times more corrosive than Detroit water. And even though repeated testing at Flint's water treatment plant had detected no lead and testing in homes had registered lead at acceptable levels, according to the state, Edwards wrote on his web site,, that his own test results suggested an undeniable presence of lead in water drawn from Flint homes.
While she waited for state data, Hanna-Attisha began sorting through Hurley's own records — a total of 1,746 test results from Flint children to compare against 1,640 results from elsewhere in Genesee County. The results were sobering: The number of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels — 5 micrograms per deciliter or more — jumped from 2.1% in the 20 months prior to Sept. 15, 2013, to 4.0% between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15 this year. In certain ZIP Codes, the change was even more troubling, she said — jumping from 2.5% of the children tested to 6.3%.
The change correlated roughly to the timing of the city's switch from using Detroit water to water that would be temporarily drawn from the Flint River.
She and her research assistant kept rechecking the numbers — often late into the evening.
One night, "her baby is crying and I’m like 'Can you run that p-value one more time?'" she said, chuckling.
By the time Hanna-Attisha went to Hurley's CEO, Melany Gavulic, public panic was high. Community organizations were handing out filters and bottled water.  Community leaders blamed a state-appointed emergency manager for changing water systems. It's an election year too for the city.
It was a “politically messy situation,” Hanna-Attisha told her boss. Gavulic was clear, Hanna-Attisha said: Kids' health comes first.
On Sept. 24, Hanna-Attisha went public with her results.
The response from the state, she said, was startling. Her research was dismissed and her comments called "unfortunate."
Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, repeated a familiar refrain: Repeated testing indicated the water tested within acceptable levels.
Hanna-Attisha said she crawled into bed that night, physically ill.
"We checked our data a bazillion times ... but when you hear (the state's dismissal) on national news, how can you not doubt yourself?" she said.
She wasn't the only one surprised. Valacak, the Genesee County health executive, said he, "took offense ... in part because I know how dedicated she is and I know the quality of her character."
That Monday, Valacak emailed state health officials. Among his questions: Why would the state's analysis include non-Flint residents? On Tuesday, he pushed again for an answer. On Wednesday: "Any update?"

He got no answers, he said: "It was frustrating."
At the same time, Hanna-Attisha had stepped up conversations with Wells, who had taken her post as the state's chief medical executive in May. The two women knew of each other and had even stood together earlier this year to promote immunizations.
Wells, who leads the preventive medicine residency program at the University of Michigan's school of public health,  said she'd heard media reports about Flint's water. She balanced those against water-quality tests indicating the water was safe. Moreover, a look at county-wide data didn't trigger any alarms.
Now, she was alarmed by a closer look at Hanna-Attisha's  findings.
In several conversations, Wells and Hanna-Attisha compared the pediatrician's analysis against that of the state epidemiologists. Among the differences: The state's number included kids from outside Flint — those who wouldn't normally drink Flint water. Some had Flint addresses but lived outside city limits.
As September drew to a close, state health epidemiologists reanalyzed their data, eventually confirming Hanna-Attisha's results. Wells saw a yellow Post-it note from her staff on her keyboard when she walked in at 7:30 a.m. Oct. 1. Her own data analysts had confirmed Hanna-Attisha's findings. She walked down the hallway to find Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They'd have to let the public know — and fast, the two decided.
That same day, Valacak and Genesee County commissioners declared a public health emergency. Commission chairman Jamie Curtis said he'd simply had enough. Dr. Hanna-Attisha's data couldn't be ignored, no matter what state authorities said water testing indicated. "In six years I don’t want 5- and 6-year-olds going to school with lead poisoning," he said.
Valacak said he got a call the next day — Friday, shortly before the state news conference. Dr. Hanna-Attisha's numbers had been confirmed, he was told.
At 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling joined state officials — environmental, health, and public relations — at the microphone in front of a packed room of reporters.
"We understand many have lost confidence in the drinking water. We need to build that back. We need to do that more,"  Dan Wyant, of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, said in front of a line of cameras. Reporters tapped away on keyboards. Outside were protesters.
Quietly in the back of the room stood Hanna-Attisha, She leaned over to Brad Wurfel, the state spokesman who a week earlier had called her work “unfortunate" in a time of “near hysteria."
You called me irresponsible, Hanna-Attisha recalled saying to him. Wurfel said he was sorry.
"I had the opportunity to apologize ... I was grateful for the opportunity to do it," Wurfel told the Free Press later. "I will be the first to say, I came on a little strong on this because I believed the numbers we had in the moment."
Hanna-Attisha, whom Gavulic called "definitely one of our superstars" even before her recent spotlight, said she and other researchers aren't done. They want to specifically map blood-lead levels throughout the city's neighborhoods, and they want to test for blood-levels in cord blood from Flint's newest babies.
Exhausting? Yes. Ready to stop? Never, she said: "Because this is what matters. This is what we do ... This is why we're here."

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Detroit Homeless Women To Be Honored by COTS

These are the experts to listen to when it comes to social and economic policy in Detroit, in Michigan.

I encourage political leadership, Democratic, Republican and Progressive, to attend and embrace the ones who rock the cradle of Detroit society.

Homelessness: The Human Experience

On any given night, there are more than 16,000 homeless in Detroit, one-third of these are children, according to the Coalition of Temporary Shelter (COTS).
Frankie Piccirilli, Starkela Lloyd and Jessica West
Frankie Piccirilli, Starkela Lloyd and Jessica West
For more than 30 years, COTS has served the most vulnerable in our community. The shelter operates at capacity throughout the year, offering programs and providing services for more than 800 men, women and children daily.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 8:00 am COTS will hold its 5th Annual Leading Ladies Breakfast at Eastern Market. The breakfast is being held to celebrate COTS’ accomplishments and share their vision for helping families on their journey to self-sufficiency. Carol Goss, former CEO of The Skillman Foundation, will  co-chair the event and is very dedicated to the mission at hand.
“I’ve been involved in this work all my life. We want to help women to become self-sufficient, to live their lives in a way that is wonderful for them and to help them raise their children to become wonderful adults,” said Goss.
Frankie Piccirilli, chief development officer for COTS, is passionate about the work that she does. As Piccirilli faces the staggering statistics of homelessness in Detroit — approximately 20,000 homeless people and only about 2,000 shelter beds — she remains optimistic.
“I am a big fan of Mother Theresa and I truly believe that if you are the voice for one you become the voice of many,” Piccirilli said. “It is tough when you only look at the statistics but looking at stats and having an actual conversation with these women makes a difference in how I view my job. Viewing these families as people and not a number allows me to push harder and keep going despite what the statistics say.”
The face of homelessness is ever changing, as there are quite a few young adults who find themselves without adequate shelter.
Jessica West, 22, now resides at COTS with her husband and three children.
Originally from Denver, West came to Detroit with her husband seeking a better life but found that things were not as promising as they seemed.
“I came to Detroit in May. My husband is originally from here so we moved here for our children to be close to his family. However, when I got here things were different than I imagined,” said West. “I was eight months pregnant which made it difficult to find a job and the people we were living with weren’t really sympathetic to our situation and we were told to leave.”
That’s when West and her family began sleeping in their car.
Stories like this are becoming more and more common.
Young people, striking out on their own trying to make a life for themselves only to encounter challenges and obstacles along the way. Many are able to overcome the challenges and forge ahead but some, like West, have circumstances at play that make it difficult to get a grip.
“Being homeless at such a young age has been hard because all this time I felt like I was my own adult. When I realized I needed help and there was none within my family, it really brought me down. My husband and I don’t have alcohol or drug problems. We just thought we had support here and we didn’t,” said West. “But COTS has been very helpful to me. They are helping me and my family to get into a position where we can live on our own. I just started a job and am looking forward to getting a home for my children, soon!”
Children who reside at COTS
Children who reside at COTS
While the reasons for homelessness vary from one person to the next, studies show that domestic violence is the immediate cause of homelessness for many women. Survivors of domestic violence are often isolated from support networks and financial resources by their abuser, which puts them at risk of becoming homeless.
That was the case for 28-year-old Starkela Lloyd.IMG_0059
“I was in an abusive relationship with my daughter’s father and this relationship was so damaging to me that I became an alcoholic. I was at a point where I wanted to escape him but did not have the means or confidence so drinking became my escape,” she said.
As Lloyd’s drinking increased so did the violence and one day she decided enough was enough.
“One night we had a very big fight and my 4-year old daughter was right there screaming at the top of her lungs for us to stop. That was a turning point for me and that’s when I decided that I needed to get my life together. I realized that I was drinking all the time because I did not want the life I was living but I wasn’t strong enough to do something about it. The mental and physical abuse I was experiencing on a daily basis made it hard to envision a better day.”
However, even after having that moment of clarity, Lloyd was still hesitant about going to a homeless shelter.
“Ending up in COTS was something I never thought would happen to me,” she said. “I thought ‘me, homeless? Oh no, not me. I’m not one of those people,’ But I’ve learned that you can never say where you won’t be because it only takes one situation to become homeless.”
Leaving the  abusive relationship for a safer environment at COTS did not immediately solve Lloyd’s problem.
“My first two months there, I was down and depressed,” she recalled. “I turned back to alcohol. I would leave the shelter in the morning, go stand on the corner and drink. Then one day a counselor from COTS came up to me and said ‘you are going to stop standing on this corner drinking. You are going to so something with yourself. And go comb your hair!’”
That was almost three years ago. Today Lloyd is gainfully employed and self-sufficient, living on her own with her young daughter. A magnetic woman with a smile that lights up the room, you can feel resilience radiating from Lloyd. She has shown exceptional promise and has even discovered a talent for public speaking during her time at COTS.
Further proof of her development and talents are evident in her appointment to co-chair of the Leading Ladies Breakfast alongside Carol Goss. Lloyd has also been asked to attend various events and share her story and an encouraging word.
“Knowing that one day I can make a difference to the women in this shelter and possibly change someone’s life and be a voice has given me my purpose,” she said. “So that is why I speak and share my story”
“We felt Star was the perfect choice to co-chair the breakfast because she is dynamic. She is strong, fearless and just draws you in when she speaks. People really take to her and they have someone to identify with,” said Piccirrilli.
Putting a face to homelessness is important but it is also important to realize that that face is ever-changing for a myriad of reasons. As the old saying goes: there but for the grace of God go I. With so many in our community being classified as the “working poor,” the threat of homelessness is not exclusive to any one group of people. It looms over the heads of many.
As Piccirilli stated, “There are a lot of us who are one illness, one death, one flat tire, one paycheck away from homelessness. It really could happen to any one of us. It’s the human experience,” said Piccirrilli.
To meet the women featured in this article and to learn share how COTS’ structure has changed to help families overcome poverty through the Passport to Self-Sufficiency framework, please visit and purchase your ticket to get a seat at the table.
Your presence and support will help families establish housing, embrace education, employment, health and well- being, and change the course for a better future as they seek to permanently eradicate poverty from their households.
Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

MDP Women's Caucus Excludes Poor Women and Their Issues, Again

Once again, the Michigan Democratic Party is having an absolutely fabulous #MDP Toll Fest.
Michigan Democratic Women's Caucus screening attendees

"What is a Toll Fest?", you may ask.  Allow me to explain.

A Toll Fest is when an elite group charges a fee, typically not a nominal one, to access entry into the group.  If you do not pay the fee, your voice is excluded.

Toll Fests are closed systems designed to exclude any social media exposure or input.

Think of it as a roaring groupthink party where they celebrate the fact that they came up with a national agenda once again without engaging the majority of the population it is suppose to be representing.

The event is in Detroit, the largest concentration of voters and poverty in the State of Michigan.

The event also does not seem to understand that the highest population of children in poverty rate in the industrialized world is in Detroit, where women are the primary caregivers.

The entry fee to the National Federation of Democratic Women Midwest Regional Conference and Issues Conference is $40, $50 with lunch.

Do not dare to even ask for daycare.  "The nerve!"

No hardship exceptions are offered but it does not matter.  Everyone knows poor people do not vote.

Join the Michigan Democratic Women's Caucus 
for the
National Federation of Democratic Women Midwest Regional Conference and Issue Conference
Saturday, October 24
8:00 AM to 4:30 PM
COBO Convention Center
Detroit, MI 
For more information and to purchase tickets click here.
Speakers include:
Jennie BlacktonDemocratic Media Consultant and Award-Winning Writer (One Day at a Time)
Renee Branch Canady PhDEvery Woman's Business: Policy that Promotes Women, Infant, Child Health & Well Being
A'shanti F. Gholar, DNC
Christine Greig, Michigan State Representative
Anne Pope, Why the 1965 Voting Right Act Still Matters
Paid for by the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, 606 Townsend St., Lansing, MI 48933, Not authorized by any federal candidate or candidate committee.
Michigan Democratic State Central Committee
606 Townsend St.
Lansing MI 48933 United States

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, October 9, 2015

Arizona Legislature Better Work On Improving Economic and Social Policy, Pretty Quickly

The Legislature wants to know why Arizona child welfare is so messed up, but the public should be the ones to know the real story.

To quench the public thirst for the answer of why Arizona treats its children for poorly, I proudly extend my hand to walk you down memory lane of child welfare in Summer of 2015.

Instead of technical language which many elected officials and staff have no clue as to what it means or measures, I have provided that snapshot of Summer 2015, Arizona style with the compiled work of Legally Kidnapped.

If you are in need of more stories in any type of child welfare subject matter, just go to Legally Kidnapped and look it up.

It's quick, simple, and does not have that whitewashed mumble jumble that I am highly trained to see through.

Oct 04, 2015
The state Department of Child Safety must better track its spending if it wants a 20-percent increase in funding for next year, lawmakers say.
Oct 03, 2015
Report points to failing of Arizona's child welfare system. A lack of structure in how the state's child welfare agency decides whether someone is in danger leads to "poor documentation and subjective decision-making by ...
Sep 14, 2015
The Arizona Attorney General's Office is requesting $1 million to help pay for a surge in child welfare cases as well as an additional $9 million for fiscal year 2017.
Aug 11, 2015
Report: Arizona ranks among worst states in nation for child welfare. In an ideal world, children would be given every opportunity to thrive and have a great life, no matter where they are from. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal ...
Jun 29, 2015
A year ago Arizona's governor and a united Legislature agreed that to save the state's troubled child-welfare agency, it had to be razed and rebuilt.
Mar 24, 2015
As Arizona Struggles to Fix Foster System, Children Suffer the Consequences. She was just 5 months old the first time she and her siblings were taken from a mother struggling with addiction and placed in the care of the state.
May 30, 2015
There are 17000 Arizona children in foster care, a new record.

Perhaps the State of Arizona Legislature might want to revisit its social and economic policies with a tad bit more scrutiny because the shit it is doing now, is only going to get worse, as cited in the assessment audit.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member Full Committee Hearing on “Planned Parenthood Exposed"

" Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider”

“I want to take a moment to walk through the events that have led up to this hearing:

§  “In the weeks or months prior to their public release, Mr. Franks and others in the Majority—including, we have learned, his subcommittee staff—received and previewed these surreptitiously recorded videos.

§  “On July 15, 2015, the first video was released to the public.  Others were posted online over the August break.

§  “Three different House committees then launched simultaneous congressional investigations.

§  “On September 9, this Committee held its first hearing on the topic—at which the Majority’s witnesses refused to discuss the videos at the heart of the matter. 

§  “There have since been two other hearings on this topic, making this hearing the fourth in the House in less than a month.

§  “And, finally, the Majority has announced that it will create a new, taxpayer-funded select committee to extend this so-called ‘investigation’ indefinitely.

“As I reflect on these events, I think we are able to draw a few conclusions.

“First, there is no evidence in the record whatsoever of illegal activity at Planned Parenthood. 

“On behalf of its 59 affiliates, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has provided this committee with hundreds of pages of documents.  The organization is cooperating fully with all three investigations in the House. 

“The documents we have reviewed so far allow us to go point-by-point to correct the false impressions created by the highly edited, highly misleading videos that nominally inspired these investigations. 

“Chairman Chaffetz, who sits on this Committee and is running his own investigation into these matters in the Oversight Committee next door, has agreed with this conclusion.

“Last week, Wolf Blitzer asked the gentleman from Utah: ‘Is there any evidence . . . that Planned Parenthood has broken any law?’  Mr. Chaffetz answered with the truth: ‘No, I’m not suggesting that they broke the law.’

“Second, I am led to conclude that this hearing—much like the Majority’s broader attack on Planned Parenthood—is largely political theater, designed to rally the conservative base and roll back the constitutional right to choose wherever possible. 

“In practice, these investigations have had little to do with the videos—which the Majority went to great lengths not to discuss at our last hearing.  They have everything to do with appeasing the most extreme elements of the Republican Party during an intraparty leadership crisis and a fractious presidential primary.

“We may have a legitimate difference of opinion on Roe v. Wade, but it remains the law of the land—and the Majority’s attempt to re-litigate a forty-year-old decision places thousands of lives at risk.

“Many women enter the health care system through a family-planning provider.  In fact, 6 in 10 women who receive services at a publicly funded family-planning center consider it their primary source of medical care.

“Planned Parenthood alone serves 2.7 million Americans every year.  Abortion procedures make up an incredibly small amount of the services it provides—only 3 percent. 

“For example, in 2013, Planned Parenthood provided 900,000 cancer screenings to women across the country.  88,000 of those tests detected cancer early or identified abnormalities that might signal a greater risk of cancer.  In short, in this way and so many others, Planned Parenthood saves lives. 

“The attempt to defund Planned Parenthood places each of those lives at risk.  We should be grateful that the effort has been almost entirely unsuccessful, at least at the federal level.

“Finally, it is important to observe all of the good work this Committee might be doing instead of meeting for the second time on this subject in thirty days.

“As we head into our second election season since Shelby County v. Holder, this Committee has done very little to restore the enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act. 

“We have done nothing to advance comprehensive immigration reform, even though the proposal remains overwhelmingly popular and would easily pass the House. 

“11 million men and women are waiting to come out of the shadows and contribute to our economy and communities.  At this pace, I fear they will wait much longer.

“Although the scourge of gun violence has touched every one of our districts—including yours, Mr. Chairman—we have all but ignored calls to strengthen background checks and close the gun show loophole.  All of these solutions would save lives; and all of them are consistent with our constitutional rights.

“The list of missed opportunities is long, Mr. Chairman, and our time is short.  We should not spend one more minute—or one more taxpayer dollar—vilifying Planned Parenthood without a speck of evidence to back these claims. 

“This Committee simply has too much important work to do.  I urge my colleagues to put this moment of political theater behind us.  We can do better. I thank the Chairman, and yield the balance of my time.”

Click HERE to read the testimony of Democratic witness, Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law and Poverty.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©