Issue 15 | July - September 2021 | Q4
CVLAP Summer Fun
CVLAP-Elder and MEJI staff from around the state gathered together in a 100 year-old barn at Hilltop Views Farm in Williamston. It was a beautifully sunny day spent eating together, meeting some friendly goats, and pressing fresh apple cider!
ELDRS Fall Conference
Look at this great group of CVLAP attorneys! Laura Kubit graciously offered to host a get-together at her lovely home for those attending the ELDRS Fall Conference in Bay City.
We've got a lot to celebrate at CVLAP this quarter - two new babies and a wedding! (Clockwise from top: baby Kamrynn Sanders, Brittany Paulk's wedding, and baby Anna Ballard)
Staff Updates
New Staff
Eryka Symington - Escanaba (Elder)
Meredith Luneack - MIRC (DV)
Sylvia Esparza-Casciano - Tribal Attorney (DV)

We are so happy Eryka, Meredith, and Sylvia have joined the CVLAP team!
Departing Staff
Marie Nelson - MIRC (DV)
Brittany Tucker - Macomb (DV)

Mireille Phillips - Macomb (Elder)
Emily Grainger - Lansing (Elder)

Many thanks to Marie, Brittany, Emily and Mireille for their excellent work with CVLAP!
Job Postings
CVLAP-DV & Elder 
CVLAP currently has open Staff Attorney positions in the following offices: Lansing (Elder), Mt. Clemens (Elder) and Warren (DV).  For more information or to share our postings, please visit the MAP job page here.
Quarter In Review 
In the 4th quarter of 2021 (July - September) CVLAP attorneys assisted 1,043 survivors of domestic violence and/or elder abuse, neglect or exploitation.  During this quarter we closed a total of 337 cases.  Of the closed cases, we provided extended services to 143 clients.  We are incredibly proud of our amazing staff attorneys across the state and want to share some of the good stories (see below) that exemplify the amazing and much needed advocacy that makes this project so vital.
Excellence in Advocacy
 Sokainah Mahmutovic, CVLAP-DV Attorney at Michigan Immigrants Rights Center in Grand Rapids, represented a domestic violence survivor who was subjected to extreme cruelty by her U.S. Citizen husband. From 2019 to 2021, Sokainah worked with the client to obtain immigration relief under the Violence Against Women's Act. During that time, the client also worked with Legal Aid of Western Michigan to get a divorce from her husband in late 2019.
The client's VAWA application was submitted in October 2019 and it was finally approved in late August 2021. She now has lawful status in the United States as she waits for the processing of her application for permanent residency.

The combination of services from Michigan Immigrants Rights Center and Legal Aid of Western Michigan to ensure the client was safe and had lawful immigration status empowered her to leave an abusive husband and start a new chapter of her life.
 Shacara Burrel, CVLAP-Elder Law Graduate in Battle Creek, represented an older resident with dementia who was facing involuntarily discharged from a nursing home.  The case was referred to the local legal services office by the long-term care ombudsman.  
The nursing home was represented by an experienced attorney and the hearing lasted 5 1/2 hours.  The ombudsman's command of the facts and knowledge of the regulations, along with Shacara's skill and strategy in her first involuntary discharge case, overpowered nursing home's arguments
The nursing home ultimately agreed to withdraw the involuntary discharge once it was clear the ALJ was going to rule in favor of the resident.  Even more remarkably, a senior corporate official who had listened in to the hearing contacted the ombudsman to share concerns about the way the nursing home presented itself at the hearing and assured the ombudsman that the administrator was being removed from his position.  Moreover, the official invited the ombudsman to meet with him to brainstorm about what the facility needed to do to turn itself around. 
Elder Justice Update
By Alison Hirschel
Governor Whitmer Announces Reorganization in MDHHS to create a new Health and Aging Services Administration

On October 14th, Governor Whitmer issued an Executive Order to establish the Health and Aging Services Administration (HASA).  This new Administration will replace the Aging and Adult Services Administration (AASA) and the Medical Services Administration (MSA). According to the Governor’s Office, the goal of the reorganization was to promote greater coordination among programs, like Older Americans Act services, previously housed in AASA, and long term care programs, like MI Choice and PACE, that were housed in MSA.  In addition, the goals of the new Administration include increasing capacity to provide home and community based services, increasing the speed with which services can be made available to beneficiaries, streamlining program requirements, and developing comprehensive goals.  The Administration will be led by Kate Massey, the State Medicaid Director who previously served as the Senior Deputy Director at MSA.

While advocates have long been seeking better coordination among MDHHS programs, a comprehensive long term care plan that dramatically increases the availability of home and community based services, and reduced bureaucracy, the new structure raises a number of concerns:
  • The press release and Executive Order focus on older adults but many of the individuals receiving long term care services are younger adults with disabilities.  The striking failure to mention or commit to meeting the need of this community of beneficiaries is alarming and caused significant concern.
  • A number of home and community based services programs are offered through the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA).  Although clients may be eligible for services through both HASA and BHDDA and there has been a troubling lack of coordination between BHDDA and MSA in the past, the Executive Order and press release do not mention how these services will be better coordinated through this new organization
  • Several extremely experienced and high ranking MDHHS staff with long term care expertise left the Department in the last few months.  The new plan and the staff changes that will follow do not address how MDHHS will make up for the loss of key leadership and experience in long term care.
Advocates from the Olmstead Coalition (including a number of MEJI staff) are seeking to meet with MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel to pitch a comprehensive strategy for expanding  home and community based services, offering more information and referral services to help people navigate the maze of long term care services,  improving coordination in the Department, and better meeting long term care consumers’ needs and preferences. 
Domestic Violence Update
By Rebecca Shiemke
Presumption of Equal Parenting Time Bills Introduced
House Bills 5459 and 5460 would amend the child custody act to create a presumption that it is in the best interests of a child to award equal or approximately equal parenting time to each parent.  The presumption may be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence that equal or approximately equal parenting time is not in the best interest of the child.
If enacted, the bills would dramatically alter the way that custody disputes are resolved by imposing a one-size-fits-all approach on all Michigan families, as opposed to the current requirement that judges consider the best interests of each individual child. 
MPLP and the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) have been working with the bills’ sponsors, Representatives Garza and VanSingel, and we are hopeful that they are open to significant amendments to the bills.  We also anticipate broad opposition to these bills as written by the many groups that opposed previous introduction of bills creating a presumption of joint custody.
Bill Introduced to Protect Victims of Economic Abuse
HB 5256 would amend the occupational code, MCL 339.901, by adding a new section addressing practices of debt collection agencies that would increase protections to all debtors as well as victims of economic abuse. 
The bill would prohibit collection agencies from contacting a debtor without first providing a written notice at least 5 days in advance that includes detailed information about the claim.  In addition, debt collectors could not contact a debtor if that debtor provides documentation of economic abuse.  Proof of economic abuse may include:
  • A PPO issued under MCL 600.2950
  • A police report indicating the debtor was a victim of domestic violence or elder abuse
  • An FTC report indicating the debtor was the victim of identity theft
  • A report from a professional stating that the debtor incurred debts as a result of abusive coercion from an intimate partner
The bill seeks to reduce the harmful effects of economic abuse, which is a common tactic used by abusers against their intimate partners.  Simply put, coerced debt is any non-consensual credit-related transaction that occurs within an abusive intimate relationship, where the abuser uses fraud, coercion, or manipulation, and which creates financial dependence or hardship for the victim. (Littwin, 2021). 
Training & Webinar Opportunities
Below are links (click on the pictures) to various organizations that provide training opportunities on issues that affect survivors of domestic violence and elder, abuse, neglect and exploitation. 
Domestic Violence Initiative
Rebecca Shiemke - Consulting Attorney
Emily Miller - Managing Attorney
Kathleen Allen - Supervising Attorney
Dave Ballard - Supervising Attorney
Ruby Robinson - Supervising Attorney
Stephanie Saad - Staff Attorney
Brooke Wilsner - Staff Attorney

Linda Kellum - Staff Attorney
Cat Villanueva - Staff Attorney
Sharron Sanders - Staff Attorney
Sokainah Mahmutovic - Staff Attorney
Ana Kolosova - Staff Attorney
Jamila Odeh - Staff Attorney
Kendall Dingwall - Staff Attorney
Lauren Ykimoff - Staff Attorney
Jessica Rundle - Staff Attorney
Michael Kiehne - Staff Attorney
Nathan Frischkorn - Staff Attorney
Jennifer Sheldon - Staff Attorney
Meredith Luneack - Staff Attorney
Sylvia Esparza-Casciano - Staff Attorney
Elder Justice Initiative
Alison  Hirschel - Consulting Attorney
Emily Miller - Managing Attorney
Kathleen Allen - Supervising Attorney
Dave Ballard - Supervising Attorney
Nicole Shannon - Systemic Advocacy
Roger West - Staff Attorney
Natalie Cherry - Staff Attorney
Brittany  Paulk - Staff Attorney
Laura Kubit - Staff Attorney
Amanda Eicher - Staff Attorney

Toi Dennis - Staff Attorney 
Jonathan Tabor - Staff Attorney
Shacara Burrel - Law Graduate
Jennifer Sheldon - Staff Attorney

Eryka Symington - Staff Attorney
The Crime Victims Legal Assistance Project is funded by a Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (“VOCA”) grant from the Michigan Crime Victims Services Commission of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to the Michigan Advocacy Program.
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