FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 21, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112, WheatonB@
Adoptive families from across Michigan recognized for providing loving homes to children during Adoption Day and Month
LANSING, Mich. – As the state celebrates Adoption Day today, and Adoption Month during November, families from across the state are being recognized by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange as Outstanding Adoptive Families.
Included are Robert and Stephanie Wilson of Oakland County – who became legal guardians for four young siblings in foster care – and Marc and Nicole Olger of Kent County, who intended to foster two special half siblings with special needs until they could return home but stepped up when they needed a permanent home.
“Adoption Day and Adoption Month are times for all of us to think about and recognize the many loving families who step up to provide permanent homes for children who need them,” said Director Elizabeth Hertel of MDHHS, which oversees the state’s child welfare system. “As MDHHS director, it’s an honor to have the chance to visit with families who give children an opportunity to realize their dreams.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed Nov. 21 Adoption Day and November Adoption Month. More information about adoptive families who are being recognized this month can be found at www.mare.org/MI-Adoption-Day.
“My mom and dad were foster parents for 35 years,” Stephanie Wilson said, estimating that they provided loving temporary homes to more than 100 children. “Robert wanted to do it, and my parents did it, and we both felt the best way to share our love was to become foster parents, so we decided to move forward with fostering.”
The Wilsons, who live in Auburn Hills, ended up adopting sisters Kataleiha, now 9, and Kavin, 8, and became legal guardians of their brothers, Robert, now 17, and Syncere, 15. “They’re truly great kids,” Stephanie said.
She said her husband serves as a positive Black role model for the four siblings, who are also African-American. “I believe a lot of times, no matter what the race is, (children in foster care) don’t have that positive role model, male or female, that looks like them,” Stephanie said. “So when they see someone who looks like them, they can see it happen – that they can be successful and they can have their own house and own family.”
Marc and Nicole Olger, of the Grand Rapids area, wanted to be foster parents and didn’t plan to adopt. But they couldn’t say no when two-half siblings they were fostering ended up needing permanent homes. Both Bella, now 5, and Tyler, now 2, have special medical needs, so Nicole’s training as a nurse has come in handy. When Bella came into care at 6 months old she couldn’t roll over, verbalize or sit. “Bella has made leaps and bounds since coming into care,” Nicole said. “She is a miracle. We didn’t know if she’d ever walk or talk. She had to be taught how to do everything by several amazing specialists. Now she walks, she runs, she makes us laugh every day.
“Ty’s smile and silly attitude bring our family so much happiness,” she said. “His medical needs can be hard at times but the joy he brings into our lives makes it easy to forget the hard stuff. He truly is resilient with everything he has been through.”
Nicole would offer this advice to anyone interested in fostering or adopting: “Go into it with an open mind, but a caring heart. There have been a lot of challenges and unforeseen bumps in our journey. You have to be able to be able to be flexible to the different challenges that arise. It’s very emotional and hard but also very rewarding. At the end of the day, it’s about the kids and they are worth it and truly bring so much more joy to our life.”
Approximately 10,000 children are in foster care in Michigan, including approximately 250 children who are still awaiting a forever family through adoption. The number of children in foster care is down from nearly 14,000 in 2018 as MDHHS has focused on keeping families together, reunifying children safely with their families, and finding adoptive homes more quickly when safe reunification is not possible. More than 1,600 children were adopted from Michigan’s child welfare system from October 2022 through September 2023.
Courts statewide, in partnership with MDHHS, are holding special Adoption Month ceremonies in November at which children officially become permanent members of their new forever families. That includes an adoption event hosted by the Michigan Supreme Court today. Anyone interested in adopting from foster care can contact the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange at 800-589-6273, or see biographies and photos of children available for adoption at www.mare.org. Adoptive homes for teens are especially needed.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 20, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112, WheatonB@
MDHHS announces key staffing changes and reorganization to further commitment to children, youth and families
LANSING, Mich. – Today, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced several staffing changes and a departmental reorganization designed to improve collaboration, provide an increased focus on key service areas and increase administrative efficiencies.
“MDHHS continually looks for opportunities to refine and enhance our delivery of services to improve the health, safety, and prosperity of Michigan residents,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “I am excited to continue working with our outstanding leadership team as we deliver health and opportunity to all Michigan residents, reduce intergenerational poverty and promote health equity.”
David Knezek, Chief Operating Officer
David Knezek, chief deputy director of administration, has been promoted to serve as the chief operating officer.
He will oversee the department’s Economic Stability Administration and its 96 district and county offices across Michigan, Financial Operations Administration and the department’s $35 billion budget, Communications Administration, Strategic Integration Administration, and Office of Legislative Affairs.
Knezek came to MDHHS in 2021. Prior to joining the department, he was the director of legislative affairs at the Michigan Department of Attorney General and a member of the Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan State Senate.
Emily Skrzypczak, Chief of Staff
Emily Skrzypczak, senior advisor to the chief deputy director of administration, has been promoted to chief of staff. She will oversee Tribal Government Services and Policy, report directly to the MDHHS director, and provide support to the chief operating officer. Skrzypczak came to the department in 2019 as the director of Legislative Affairs. Prior to joining the department, she worked for the Michigan League for Public Policy and Michigan House of Representatives.
Lewis Roubal, Senior Advisor of Human Services
Lewis Roubal, chief deputy director for opportunity, has announced his retirement from MDHHS in February 2024 after 23 years of service. He previously served in a variety of roles within the department, beginning his career as a frontline caseworker and holding a variety of leadership roles including Mecosta/Osceola County director and Business Service Center 2 director.
“Lew has played a key role in Michigan’s efforts to provide greater access to benefits, such as food assistance, and sought innovative ways to improve human services program delivery throughout his career,” Hertel said. “His experience, leadership and passion for helping children and families will be greatly missed. I wish him well in his upcoming retirement.”
Roubal will remain with MDHHS as senior advisor of human services until his retirement.
Laura Blodgett, Senior Deputy Director of Communications
Laura Blodgett, director of external relations and communications, has been promoted to senior deputy director of the Communications Administration. She will oversee the Office of Communications, as well as the Bureau of Community Engagement and Workforce Transformation.
Blodgett came to MDHHS in 2021. Prior to joining the department, she provided strategic communications to Trinity Health Michigan, and served as a contributing writer for publications including The Detroit News and Crain’s Detroit Business.
Children’s Services Administration
Effective immediately, the Children’s Services Administration has been elevated within the department to report directly to Hertel. Previously, the administration reported to Roubal. As the department moves forward with its Keep Kids Safe Action Agenda, the reorganization is designed to increase executive engagement and oversight at the highest level of the department.
“Working in collaboration with Children’s Services Administration Senior Deputy Director Demetrius Starling, MDHHS has begun to reform the way we think about and engage on matters of child safety and family well-being. I’m eager to continue this work in close collaboration with the passionate and dedicated Children’s Services Administration staff that work around the clock to keep kids safe and enable them to live healthy, happy lives,” Hertel said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 2, 2023
CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112, Sutfinl1@
MDHHS reminds Michigan residents to take
LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) urges Michigan residents to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing CO detectors and making sure fuel burning appliances are properly working when turning back the clocks for the end of daylight saving time Sunday, Nov. 5.
CO is known as the “silent killer” as it is a colorless, odorless and tasteless poisonous gas. Most CO poisonings take place at home and are caused by items that are not properly installed, cared for or vented, including furnaces, water heaters, generators, gas grills, dryers, lanterns, space heaters, fireplaces, chimneys and gas stoves. CO is a gas that forms whenever a fossil fuel is burned (charcoal, wood, propane, gasoline, etc.).
“Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors save lives,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin Sehlmeyer. “It is imperative that you have a functioning CO detector on every level of your home, and near every sleeping area.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each year approximately 100,000 people across the country visit the emergency department for accidental CO poisoning. In 2020, the latest year that data are available from the MDHHS Michigan Environmental Public Health Tracking Program (MiTracking), there were 672 Michigan emergency department visits for CO poisoning.
CO poisoning can be prevented by practicing the safety tips listed below and knowing the symptoms of exposure. At high levels, CO can cause death within minutes. If you suspect you may be experiencing CO poisoning, or your CO detector alarm goes off, go outside immediately for fresh air, and THEN call 911.
“Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion and nausea,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, chief medical executive. “If you think you have been exposed, it is important to get into an area with fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.”
To protect yourself and your family from CO, follow these safety tips:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 30, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112, WheatonB@
Request for Proposals for Medicaid Health Plans now open
LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) today launched a competitive procurement for the Comprehensive Health Care Program contract for Michigan’s Medicaid health plans, which combined serve 2.2 million Michiganders receiving coverage through Medicaid and the Healthy Michigan Plan.
“Through this rebid process, MDHHS will select Medicaid health plan contractors with the experiences, capabilities and commitment to deliver an equitable, coordinated and person-centered system of care that will ultimately provide Michigan residents with a healthier future,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel.
The rebid is part of MIHealthyLife, an initiative launched in 2022 to strengthen Medicaid services through new Medicaid health plan contracts. Input from nearly 10,000 enrollees and family members, health care providers, health plans and other community partners informed the creation of five MIHealthyLife strategic pillars:
The MIHealthyLife initiative guided design of Comprehensive Health Care Program changes embedded in the Medicaid Health Plan contract rebid. An informational webinar is available on the MIHealthyLife home page describing these priority program changes in more detail:
The Medicaid Health Plan request for proposals is posted to the SIGMA system. Responses from bidders are due on Jan. 16, 2024. Bidders are to submit any written non-rate related questions regarding the request for proposal by Nov. 17, 2023, and rate-related questions by Dec. 1, 2023. Interested bidders are encouraged to refer to the Proposal Instructions for additional information regarding questions submittal and deadlines. MDHHS will post answers to bidder questions on the SIGMA system by Dec. 14, 2023. Medicaid Health Plan contracts resulting from this rebid will begin on Oct. 1, 2024.
The State of Michigan reserves the right to change dates or any other information deemed necessary.
Visit the SIGMA website for more information on the system.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 9, 2023
CONTACT: Chelsea Wuth, 517-241-2112, [email protected]
MDHHS awards $200,000 to expand, improve access to sickle cell health care for Michigan families
LANSING – As part of an effort to increase patient access to multidisciplinary health care and improved care coordination and establish provider networks that focus on sickle cell disease, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has awarded two grants for sickle cell clinic expansion and enhancement.
The two awardees, each receiving $100,000, are:
“We are excited to see work begin on these new projects,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “They will help us continue to provide more equitable access to care for those with sickle cell disease.”
These two projects join three other projects located at Henry Ford Health, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan that were funded in April 2022.
The new clinic award period begins Oct. 1, 2023, and ends Sept. 30, 2024. A second three-year cycle of funding is expected to be issued in the summer of 2024. Initial funding for the clinic program was included in the fiscal year 2022 budget signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of the expansion of the Children’s Special Health Care Services program to cover adults with sickle cell disease.
For more information on the new clinic services, please email [email protected]. For more information about the Children’s Special Health Care Services program or its enrollment process, contact your local health department or call the Children’s Special Health Care Services Family Phone line at 800-359-3722.