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    Get Your Washtenaw ID

    March 21st, 2017

    The Washtenaw ID is a government issued photo identification card for all Washtenaw County residents. Get yours today at the Office of the County Clerk at 200 N. Main Street, Downtown Ann Arbor, Monday through Friday 8:30-4:00pm.

    Interested in Supporting the ID?

    We are always in need of volunteers for our Business Outreach Campaign. We are asking businesses to accept the Washtenaw ID and offer a discount or reward to ID holders.

    If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about the Washtenaw ID Project please visit our website at

    Phone: 734-340-5894

    Email: Laura Sanchez at

    Email: Aimee Papineau at

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    Patient Voices: Bipolar Disorder — The New York Times

    March 21st, 2017

    The New York Times
    WELL|Patient Voices: Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition affecting around 60 million people worldwide that causes unusual and sudden shifts in mood and energy. What is it like to have bipolar disorder? How do you balance the mental ups and downs of this disease? Here, in their own words, are the stories of five men and women living with this condition.

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    Supportive Housing – New York Times

    April 9th, 2015

    The New York Times
    The Opinion Pages | Letter
    Supportive Housing

    To the Editor:

    Re “ nov 12, 2012 – Unclear Future for Housing Program That Aids Mentally Ill Homeless People” (news article, March 25):

    There is no doubt that supportive housing, which combines affordable housing and support services, ends homelessness for people and families with significant barriers to housing, like mental illness and addiction.

    By avoiding the significant public costs of temporary shelter and emergency-room visits for the most vulnerable among us, supportive housing is also cost-effective.

    It is important to note the role of private investment in creating housing opportunities for vulnerable New Yorkers. Supportive housing is financed through a highly successful model of public-private partnerships.

    Funding from the city and state is critical in leveraging private investment, especially because it provides the continuing services necessary to keep families and individuals safely and stably housed.

    Without the guarantee of these funds from the state, we will lose not only the opportunity to publicly finance supportive housing, but also millions of dollars in private equity.


    V.P. and New York Market Leader

    Enterprise Community Partners

    New York

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    Synod Community Services CEO advocates for I.D. Project

    November 7th, 2014

    We are proud of the work on the Washtenaw County ID Program that Synod’s CEO, Keta Cowan, has been doing for the last two years. Here’s an article that outlines the presentation given to the Ypsilanti City Council that unanimously voted to support the institution of a county-wide photo ID card that would benefit thousands in our community.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Synod Community Services CEO advocates for I.D. Project

    October 15, 2014
    Written by Allie Tomason
    The Eastern Echo

    Keta J. Cowan, CEO of Synod Community Services, gave a presentation to Ypsilanti city council members on Oct. 7, advocating for the Washtenaw County I.D. Project.

    The project was designed to bring residents who lack identification cards out of the shadows.

    “It is estimated that 11 percent of all residents in Washtenaw County lack proof of who they are,” she said.

    That includes 18 percent of citizens over the age of 65, 4-6,000 (estimated) undocumented immigrants, 25 percent of African-Americans, 20 percent of Asian- Americans and 19 percent of Latino-Americans, according to the Washtenaw I.D. Task Force.

    Cowan said that lack of identification does not only affect undocumented immigrants, but homeless people, those with mental illness, the transgender community and low socioeconomic status individuals as well.

    “The state I.D. card eligibility criteria excludes a substantial amount of people,” Cowan said. “One of the goals of the I.D. Task Force is to determine how we could come to know who lives in the county. In order to provide services, we need to know what the needs are.”

    The Real I.D. Act of 2005 established more stringent criteria in order to obtain proof of identification and eliminated a number of exclusions and exceptions that the Secretary of State once made, such as a name being spelled differently on the birth certificate than it is on the social security card.

    “There are a number of people, particularly elderly African-Americans, who have never had birth certificates or whose births were registered at hospitals that have been closed,” Cowan said. “Those records are, simply, lost. Without that foundation access to the state I.D. card isn’t possible.”

    The task force has designed an identification card that looks similar to the current Michigan driver’s license, with the intended purpose of enabling residents to fully participate in civic life.

    “We designed it to look as official as possible,” Cowan said. “But it has not been proposed to the state, yet.”

    The council unanimously carried a motion to support its approval.


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    Support the Washtenaw ID Project

    October 21st, 2014

    Because no one should have to live in the shadows of their own community, the Washtenaw ID Project advocates for the creation of an accessible county ID that recognizes every resident as a person before the law and as a valuable member of Washtenaw County. The Washtenaw ID Task Force is comprised of local government officials, law enforcement officials, human service organizations and community advocates working to gather information on the nature of civic problems faced by those without ID, evaluate solutions implemented in other jurisdictions and propose suitable methods for resolving identification issues in Washtenaw County.

    Synod Community Services’ CEO Keta Cowan and Executive Assistant Janelle Fa’aola have been the Chair and Vice Chair of the Washtenaw ID Task Force from the beginning of this journey over 2 years ago. It has finally come time for the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners to vote on the Washtenaw County ID Program.

    Please come support us through our fundraising efforts and at our upcoming vote!

    Join us for an elegant evening over a fine dining experience at Sava’s Restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. A $50 ticket will get you into an appetizer mix & mingle and hearing from guest speaker Washtenaw County Board of Commissioner Chair, Yousef Rabhi and Michigan State Representative, Jeff Irwin over a decadent seated 3-course meal. A portion of ticket prices are tax-deductible and include gratuity.

    Monday, October 27
    Sava’s Restaurant
    216 S. State Street
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104

    Washtenaw County Board Ways & Means Meeting

    We invite the community to come support the Washtenaw ID Project during Public Participation by standing up to tell the County Board of Commissioners to vote in support of instituting a Washtenaw County ID Program. Every voice counts.

    Wednesday, November 5
    Washtenaw County Administration Building
    220 N. Main St.
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104


    Together We Stand
    This fundraising event will have 4-5 samples from Arbor Brewing Company’s craft beers made in-house at their brewery along with Sidetrack’s Bar & Grill’s famous appetizers and finger foods. We will also have a live auction from various community donations! $20 per ticket.

    Friday, December 12
    Arbor Brewing Company
    720 Norris St.
    Ypsilanti, MI 48198


    If you are interested in learning more about the Washtenaw ID Project please visit our website at If you are interested in donating but are unable to attend an event, please visit here. For more information, please contact Janelle or Keta at 734.340.5898 or e-mail at

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    2014 Annual Carnival

    June 24th, 2014

    Check out our pictures from the 2014 Annual Carnival last Friday! It was a day full of good food, games, prizes and FUN for Synod staff, consumers and community members. Thanks to all who attended and a special thanks to those who helped make the day such a success!

    KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Carnival 201420140620_135745(0)20140620_135949
    20140620_153936(0)20140620_153948 20140620_154848image (38)image (39)image (40)image (41)image (42)image (43)image (44)image (46)image (49)image (50)image (51) Keisha

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    Cuts to Michigan’s mental health budget cost state’s most vulnerable

    June 13th, 2014

    Ann Mullen, Ross Jones and Adam Brewster

    Watch the video here: 

    Newly instituted cuts have left some of Michigan’s most vulnerable without health services that mental health providers say could have catastrophic results.

    The cuts effect those with mental illness, developmental disorders and other conditions, like Christy Assenmacher’s son Denny.

    “He had been different since he was born, I could tell there was something different since the day he was born,” Christy said.

    Ten years ago, Denny was diagnosed with severe autism, a disorder that makes it virtually impossible for him to understand other people, communicate his feelings and develop relationships.  When he can’t express himself, Denny sometimes becomes violent.

    “I’ve had to call the police on him a few times,” she said. “And he’s not a bad kid, he’s not a bad person.  He doesn’t understand this world and when he’s upset, he doesn’t know how to deal with it.”

    Ever since his diagnosis, Denny and his mom have found respite at an agency called The Guidance Center, a non-profit group that provides mental health services that Christy’s insurance won’t cover, but the State of Michigan would.

    The center offers services like speech therapy, in-home support, someone to help Denny in school and a case manger to handle his therapy and medications.  For Christy, it was a lifesaver, especially since her husband—a longtime Southgate police officer—died suddenly last year of a heart attack.

    “He’s come so far because of all the help.  It takes so many people to help a child with autism really improve or thrive,” Assenmacher said.

    Health coverage expands, but some services end

    But earlier this year, those services abruptly stopped after lawmakers in Lansing cut funding to them by more than half.  It happened after Governor Snyder proposed something called Healthy Michigan, a program that expanded Medicaid to nearly half a million more Michigan residents.

    It was hailed by both parties, shifting health coverage expenses from the state to the federal government, and saving the state millions.  When it became law, the state cut back on how much it put towards kids like Denny, thinking Medicaid would cover the difference.

    But mental health providers across Michigan say the state cut too deep: more than $40 million too deep.  It caused them to cut back their programs, and left kids like Denny and others out in the cold.

    Denny’s mom doesn’t qualify for Healthy Michigan because she makes too much money, but her insurance won’t pay for the services that her son needs, and she says she can’t afford them.  Denny’s been without help from the Guidance Center for three months, and his mom says he’s getting worse.

    “When’s the last time he was violent?” asked Channel 7’s Ross Jones.

    “This weekend,” she responded. “He got a butter knife, and I‘m sure he wouldn’t have used it but, he starts pushing and shoving me.”

    Christy’s other son, 12-year-old Eric, ultimately came to her mom’s defense.  She says today, he’s her only support.

    “He helps me, he’s stronger and he keeps Denny in line a lot,” she said.

    Lynda Zeller is a deputy director in the Department of Community Health, which pushed the cuts to state mental health spending, from $281 million in 2013 to $97.5 million in 2015, and says no one should have lost coverage.

    “There should be a smooth enough path where no one should have to lose services,” Zeller said.

    “But some have, and are you comfortable knowing that some are?” Jones asked.

    “Of course, none of us are comfortable when a person needs services who had them before doesn’t have them,” Zeller responded.

    Service cuts deemed “unintended consequences”

    For 30 years, Adult Well-Being Services of Detroit has provided guardians for the mentally disabled, elderly and abused who can’t take care of themselves. But in April, CEO Karen Schrock and her board of directors chose to end the program, citing a lack of funds.

    “This is an example of unintended consequences,” Schrock said, speaking of the Healthy Michigan program.  “You think you’re doing a good thing and you think  you’re planning properly.

    Today, Adult Well-Being Services is scrambling to find new guardians for approximately 140 clients.  Schrock believes that at least half won’t be able to find alternatives.

    “Without this kind of oversight and support,” she said, “people will die.”

    High-ranking senator ducks questions

    Pleas from people like Schrock didn’t convince Lansing lawmakers to add funding during this week’s budget negotiations.  Their scheduled summer recess begins today, and they will leave the Capitol without providing any additional funding to help kids like Denny.  It’s a decision that some, like Senator Roger Kahn, aren’t eager to discuss.  He refused to be interviewed for nearly a week, then ducked out a back elevator on Tuesday just to avoid questions.

    When approached Tuesday by 7 Action News in Lansing on the senate floor, Kahn literally fled from our camera.

    “I’m being harassed by this gentlemen,” Kahn told a senate security guard, before escaping to his office.


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    Panel to Create Plan to Reduce Number of Mentally Ill People in New York City Jails

    June 3rd, 2014

    Joseph Goldstein
    NY Times
    June 1, 2014

    Mayor Bill de Blasio has asked several of his commissioners and aides to provide him with a plan by September to reduce the rate of incarceration among New Yorkers with mental illness.

    The effort, which City Hall will announce on Monday, is the administration’s first major criminal justice initiative. Named the Task Force on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System, it will include recommendations from the police and correction commissioners, the Manhattan district attorney, hospital administrators and judges.

    The initiative comes at a time when the city’s jail system is struggling to manage a large number of mentally ill inmates. The Department of Correction is investigating the death of a mentally ill homeless veteran in February who had been left unattended for hours as the temperature in his cell climbed above 100 degrees.

    “For far too long, our city’s jails have acted as de facto mental health facilities,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement, in which he explained that he was directing the task force to develop “innovative strategies to transform, reform and update this city’s criminal justice system” and figure out how “we can provide real, lasting mental health and addiction treatment for those in need.”

    While the task force will look at the treatment of mentally ill inmates on Rikers Island, it will also seek ways to reduce the number of people with mental illness who end up in the criminal justice system in the first place.

    Elizabeth Glazer, the mayor’s criminal justice coordinator and one of the task force leaders, said that the group would seek ways to encourage alternatives to arrest and prosecution.

    “If someone picks up the phone and calls 911 because they see someone acting out on the street, then what does the police officer do?” Ms. Glazer said. “Is this criminal behavior? And a lot of things can be described as criminal behavior, but the best intervention is not necessarily an arrest. What’s the best way to make a diagnosis? Is it up to the officer to make that diagnosis?”

    Ms. Glazer said the task force would weigh a number of possible changes, such as teaming officers with social workers or other mental health professionals and providing more intensive training to officers on identifying and dealing with individuals with mental illnesses.

    Part of the goal, she said, would be to provide police officers with more options when they respond to the 100,000 calls received each year regarding “emotionally disturbed persons,” a catchall term that covers a range of mental health issues.

    The task force’s review of the Police Department’s interactions with the mentally ill is likely to examine its handling of so-called quality-of-life offenses, generally low-level infractions that have been aggressively enforced under the leadership of Commissioner William J. Bratton. These offenses account for a significant percentage of arrests.

    “It’s something we have to look at — how these two things intersect,” Ms. Glazer said.

    The task force, she said, will also examine ways to provide better mental health care following release from the city’s jails to decrease recidivism.

    Dr. Ramanathan Raju, a member of the task force and the president of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, said public hospitals have to explore how to better engage “with the mentally ill after they leave the criminal justice system, so they stay connected to the hospital and the treatment component, and so they don’t regress back to their illness.”

    There are “a lot of things we can do better,” he said. One proposal that could receive consideration from the task force, Dr. Raju said, would be to track the medication history of some patients to see whether they are filling prescriptions they need as part of their mental health treatment. Another proposal would be to send a social worker to the addresses of mentally ill patients after their release from jail to check up on them, he said. “When they go back to their communities, do we engage them to seek care?” Dr. Raju asked.


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    Behavior Therapy Aids Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

    September 24th, 2013

    Behavior Therapy Aids Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


    Five antidepressant drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. But they are sometimes ineffective, and guidelines suggest adding an antipsychotic drug to the regimen. Now scientists have found that adding cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., may be more effective than an antipsychotic.

    Researchers studied 100 people with O.C.D. who were taking antidepressants without sufficient improvement. They randomized 40 to the antipsychotic risperidone (brand name Risperdal), 20 to a placebo pill, and 40 to exposure and ritual prevention, a special form of C.B.T. delivered twice a week over eight weeks. All continued their antidepressants as well.

    The study was published online in JAMA Psychiatry, and several of the authors have financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

    Using well-validated scales and questionnaires, the researchers found that 80 percent of the C.B.T. patients responded with reduced symptoms and improved functioning and quality of life. About 23 percent got better on risperidone, and 15 percent on the placebo.

    “It’s important to discontinue antipsychotics if there isn’t continued benefit after four weeks,” said the lead author, Dr. Helen Blair Simpson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia. “O.C.D. patients who still have symptoms should first be offered the addition of C.B.T., and some will achieve minimal symptoms.

    “There’s a hopeful message here,” she added. “There are good treatments.”

    A version of this article appears in print on 09/17/2013, on page D6 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Mind: Behavior Therapy Aids O.C.D.

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    New Help for Hoarders

    January 7th, 2013


    Michael Appleton for The New York TimesNew services and treatments have come along for those who can’t throw things away.

    There were times, Sandra Stark remembers, when she couldn’t use her kitchen or sit on her sofa. Her collections — figurines, vases, paperweights — had overtaken every closet, drawer and surface. Stacks of clothing and old magazines added to the clutter.

    Her daughters came in and threw everything away — to Ms. Stark’s horror — but a year later her home was again barely navigable. “I couldn’t throw out my garbage,” she said. “I put it in plastic bags, but I couldn’t take it out.”

    A drop-in support group sponsored by theMental Health Association of San Franciscohelped her begin to control her hoarding behavior, and she has made considerable headway. “My bedroom is still a work in progress,” said Ms. Stark, 67. “But I can cook again.”

    She has become a trained peer responder who works with others with this disorder. Many of the Mental Health Association’s clients are older adults: A woman in her 70s occupies one small room because the rest of her spacious house — leaking and mildewed — is filled with stuff she can’t discard. An 87-year-old, a compulsive thrift-store shopper, faces eviction because the city health department says she has created a safety hazard. “I’ll say, ‘Of these dozen black leather coats, pick two,’” Ms. Stark said, mapping her strategy to help keep the woman in her home.

    Researchers are not sure if hoarding intensifies with age, but the problems it creates certainly do. “The older you get, the more stuff you’ve been able to accumulate,” said Randy Frost, co-author of the book “Stuff” and a Smith College psychologist. “And older people are less physically able to deal with it.” They are more prone to falls as they try to maneuver between piles of possessions and in a crisis, emergency crews may have trouble even entering their dwellings.

    When I last wrote about hoarding almost three years ago (uncorking a wave of readers’ lamentation), I couldn’t offer much in the way of help except to steer people to the OCD Foundation. Though hoarding may not be a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, its site remains useful.

    At the time, experts knew what didn’t solve the problem, namely psychoactive drugs or “dumpster therapy,” in which well-meaning friends or family toss hoarders’ possessions, in a temporary fix that doesn’t change their behavior. But researchers were only starting to figure out what did work.

    “This is an area in which there haven’t been a lot of answers,” said Eduardo Vega, executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. Now, “there’s a lot more hope and good will.”

    Across the country, for example, cities, counties and states have formed about 80 hoarding task forces so that housing and health departments, senior service agencies, law enforcement and emergency units can coordinate their responses.

    On the mental health front, the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V is scheduled for publication in the spring, and many expect it will recognize hoarding as a distinct disorder with diagnostic criteria and a numeric code. That will make psychologists and other professionals more aware of the problem and, Mr. Vega said, “it will be easier to get insurers and providers to pay for treatment.”

    Increasingly, there is treatment. Researchers have published studies showing that cognitive behavioral therapy can help, by encouraging people to reevaluate their attachment to possessions and supporting their decisions to start discarding.

    Among patients in therapy groups, Dr. Frost has shown, 70 to 80 percent showed some improvement, he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re freed of symptoms, but their lives are improved and the behavior significantly reduced.”

    Questions remain; several published studies use small samples that are heavily comprised of females, though hoarding may be more common among men. It is not clear, Dr. Frost said, whether cognitive therapy is as effective among older adults. And it is easier to find an individual therapist or a group in major cities than elsewhere. (Here’s a locator.)

    But Dr. Frost and his co-authors have published a workbook called “Buried in Treasures,” along with a free facilitator’s guide, that allows people with hoarding disorders to form their own 15-session action workshops, led by peers rather than professionals. That approach, too, has brought measurable improvement (when used in groups, not individually), a study shows. “Here’s a way people can start working on this on their own,” Dr. Frost said.

    Diagnostic criteria, treatment centers, workbooks, published research — all this is more than mental health professionals could offer years back. Still, compulsive hoarding remains a stubborn problem, a safety risk for older people and a heartache for their families.

    “It’s really difficult for adult children,” who worry about their parents, but can’t induce them to change, Dr. Frost said. “There may be a history of animosity. Many report they grew up feeling their hoarding parents cared more about their possessions than about them.” The children, young or grown, could probably use a support group, too.

    Paula Span is the author of “When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions.”



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