“Stigma is still the biggest barrier that we have. It’s a barrier to living, getting out there and living life and being a part of the world because sometimes behaviors aren’t what we would consider to be normal or typical, and the weight of just being a part of the world in that situation can be enough to cause people to retreat.” – Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley
Lt. Gov. Calley recently joined community leaders from a variety of backgrounds including law, healthcare, courts, non-profit and corrections during WMU-Cooley Law Review’s Annual Symposium. The panel discussed the challenges present in Michigan’s system for treating and addressing mental health issues, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse, and what needs to happen to improve care and access to care. Calley raised concern about stigmas against persons with mental health, development disabilities, and substance abuse problems and the barriers that lack of acceptance present to every person’s right to experience a full life.
Calley began his remarks on a personal level, sharing his own daughter’s early autism diagnosis and the challenges he and his family faced in securing necessary treatment and services on her behalf. He said, “My experience with my daughter was one that really opened my eyes to just how the world works for people with disabilities. The conclusion that I came to at that point was that, if it was this difficult for somebody as well connected as I am to make all the things happen that need to happen, then the average person might have no chance at all.”
Because of his personal experiences, Calley said he became committed to advocating for change and improvement to Michigan’s health care system to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations. He has gone on to chair numerous work groups, think tanks, and boards, bringing all the necessary stakeholders to the table to discuss and propose necessary reforms, and effective management of healthcare funding for these important categories of care. Some of this work culminated in two final reports submitted to the Michigan legislature in January.
The panelists discussed and agreed that there is a negative impact and public prejudices against the disabled. They also spoke about the need for more sensitivity, understanding, and empathy towards these persons, who, if given the necessary support and opportunity, can successfully manage and overcome their challenges and live meaningful and productive lives.
Other panelists included Milton L. Mack, Jr., State Court Administrator and former Chief Judge of the Wayne County Probate Court; Corrections Major Sam Davis, Jail Administrator, Ingham County Sheriff’s Department; Mark Reinstein, President & CEO, Mental Health Association of Michigan; Lauren Rousseau: Associate Professor of Law, WMU-Cooley Law School; and Beverly Griffor, managing partner, Collis & Griffor, P.C.