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Article of Interest - Inclusion

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Bridges4Kids LogoThumb Area Seeking to Establish a Regional Interagency Coordinating Council to Promote Inclusion of Disabled Residents
by Rich Harp, The Huron Daily Tribune 11/18/2003
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HURON COUNTY - For the second time in three months, a Huron County group of citizens met to create a local Regional Interagency Coordinating Committee (RICC).

Primarily, the group came to receive input from Terry Hunt and Angela Hoff. Hunt is a representative of the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC). Hoff is a representative of the Blue Water Center for Independent Living (BWCIL).

The luncheon meeting, chaired by Hoff, was called to continue the formation of an active Huron County Chapter of RICC. At present, the county has a committee, but this is in name only. Hoff's job is to build an active RICC, comprised of local citizens, and to continue support until it is up and running by itself.

To understand what a RICC is, one must first understand the MDDC, the parent organization of all Michigan RICCs.

The Michigan Development Disabilities Council is a group of 21 citizens made up of: people with developmental disabilities, people from families who have members with developmental disabilities, and professionals charged with assisting people with these disabilities.

Furthermore, the council acts as an advocate for these people, and it is a strong voice working on behalf of those citizens. The council is in charge of channeling federal funds, in the form of grants, where they can do the most good. They also work with other human service agencies to assist people with developmental disabilities.

In order to do these things, the MDDC must maintain and financially support a very effective system of local networking groups across the state. These groups are known as Regional Interagency Coordinating Committees or RICCs. There are 40 RICCs in the state, and each offers lines of communication and information to local agencies that support people with developmental disabilities.

During the second informational meeting, Hunt listed some of the things that local RICCs have accomplished. These things include establishing transportation services, improving existing services, and expanding these services.

They have met with legislators, so that they could better make informed decisions. They also have established conferences to further educate consumers and advocacy groups.

Hunt pointed out that the MDDC does not lobby for money. The group works directly in conjunction with the federal Developmental Disabilities Act and, therefore, receives funding from the federal government.

In turn, the MDDC distributes about $3,000 to each of the state's RICCs. Hunt made it perfectly clear that each RICC needed " a work plan to access the money." He went on to discuss how each group would submit reports on how the money was used, and that would be done four times a year. He also discussed that each RICC would send a representative to Lansing five times a year.

During the three-hour discussion, Hunt made clear the main focal point of his organization.

"The focus of the MDD Council is inclusion," he said. "We feel that the consumers need to be a part of the bigger community picture."

Before the meeting ended, Hunt turned the microphone over to Angela Hoff, representative of Blue Water Center for Independent Living (BWCIL). Hoff acts as liaison to Tuscola, Sanilac and Huron counties.

Hoff pointed out that there used to be a local BWCIL in Bad Axe, but it was closed due to budget cuts.

"I am advocating for some funds to reopen and staff an office in Bad Axe," she said.

In regards to creating a functional RICC in Huron County, HOFF said, "I am only the temporary chair person of the local RICC. My goal is to have an independent Huron County RICC up and running by Jan. 1, 2004."

Before adjourning, Hoff said the next informational meeting will take place Wednesday in Bad Axe. Hoff indicated that she would be present at that meeting, and she encouraged any interested people to attend.

If anyone has questions about the previous two meetings or about the one that will be conducted Wednesday, they should call the local representative at (989) 269-2962 and ask for Marie.


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