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Worth reading: Stalking Awareness Month Op-Ed

Posted by Iahmed on January 25, 2010

Debi Cain, executive director of  DHS’ Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, wrote this op-ed for January as we recognize Stalking Awareness Month.

By Debi Cain 

Stalking – when someone’s repeated harassment makes another person feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated or threatened – may make for a good Law & Order episode. But unfortunately, stalking is all too common in real life and among everyday people. 

One in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice. Most victims know their stalker: 77 percent of women and 64 percent of men. And many victims have previously been in an intimate relationship with the person stalking them.

 Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm proclaimed January 2010 Stalking Awareness Month in Michigan. Michigan was actually among the first states in the nation to observe a statewide Stalking Awareness Month in 2005.

Domestic and sexual violence service providers throughout the state will recognize this important month by honoring stalking victims and raising awareness in their local communities.

Stalking is a dangerous crime that affects 3.4 million victims a year. This year’s Stalking Awareness Month theme – “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” – calls us to fight stalking by learning more about it.

But what, exactly, is stalking? Stalking can take many forms, such as:

  • Following or appearing within the sight of the targeted victim.
  • Approaching or confronting the targeted victim in a public or private place.
  • Appearing at the targeted victim’s workplace, school or home.
  • Entering or remaining on the targeted victim’s property.
  • Contacting the targeted victim by telephone.
  • Sending mail or electronic mail to the targeted victim.
  • Using cell phones, computers or surveillance equipment to keep tabs on the targeted victim.

Once a victim has identified this behavior, what’s the best defense? It’s best to make a report to local law enforcement to set in motion the necessary documentation for a stalking personal protection order. Victims can also contact their local domestic violence program for more information and help with this process. Domestic violence staff can offer advocacy, counseling and, if necessary, shelter services.

Stalking Awareness Month provides a unique opportunity for all of us to learn more about stalking and seek out information about how to support a friend or loved one who may be a stalking victim. 

 It also offers an excellent opportunity for Michigan citizens to show support for the numerous organizations and individuals that provide advocacy efforts, services and assistance to stalking victims. 

I encourage you to find out more. The Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board (MDVPTB) funds agencies that provide these services statewide. To find a program in your area, visit

Members of the legislatively enacted MDVPTB are appointed by the governor and are charged with leading statewide efforts to eliminate domestic and sexual violence in the state. The board is administratively housed within the Michigan Department of Human Services. 

For more information about stalking, you may also contact your local domestic violence program, visit the Michigan Resource Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence Web site at or the National Stalking Resource Center at

Stalking can happen to anyone and stalkers can be hard to stop. The more you know about stalking, the more you can do to stop it.

Debi Cain is executive director of the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board.


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Be Great: Serve vulnerable citizens in your community

Posted by Iahmed on December 21, 2009

I truly love the holiday season. Like everyone else, it’s great to be with family and friends, but more than that, I love the sense of community and mission that shines in each of us during this period.

The Christmas season reminds us, pulls at our emotions and urges us to help each other. Our sense of brotherhood and sisterhood is revived. Courtesies are on display and smiles are quickly generated and sustained. Neighbors are helping neighbors; residents aiding their respective communities by helping those in need. It is this sense of service I love so much during the holiday season.

As you already know, Michigan has suffered the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In spite of the efforts of many in government and in private nonprofits we hear new stories and may know neighbors who are unemployed, losing their homes and having a tough time making ends meet.

Currently, there are over two million people in poverty in our state and nearly 500,000 of them are children. This year the Michigan Department of Human Services assisted 2.2 million people and provided welfare, food, medical and child day care assistance, in spite of budget cuts and without any growth in staffing levels.

Government, churches and nonprofits are stretched thin in meeting the ever-increasing need. Still, they seek partnerships and collaborations to make life better for the least of these in our communities.

Nevertheless, I believe in each of our hearts there is a capacity and desire to help others. To do this may or may not take money and may or may not take much time. Helping could be purchasing a toy for a child in need, contributing food to a food bank or soup kitchen, providing clothes for kids in foster care, mentoring a youth, knitting sweaters for seniors, becoming a foster or adoptive parent, volunteering at a domestic violence shelter or donating money to someone who has lost his or her home. There are many ways to help.

Enhancing the life of a person in your community is the right thing to do. It does not require a holiday season, a sermon, television cameras or a “guilt trip.” Rather, it represents and reflects the greatness of your heart and the consistency of your character in meeting and serving the lives of those in need.

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve,” said famed civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

King reminds us that there are no barriers to serve. Service is who you are and what you do. It is not limited by your age, educational attainment, grammar, wealth or intelligence. Service exposes and defines your heart and character.

During this holiday season and throughout the New Year, I invite you to serve in meeting the needs of vulnerable children, adults and families in your community.

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DHS audit focuses on funding sources, not misuse or misspending

Posted by Iahmed on November 2, 2009

A routine audit by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) made sensational headlines recently.

In reality, the audit questioned how DHS spent $163 million – or about 2.5 percent of the $6.5 billion in federal funding we received in the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years.

The audit does not say DHS misused the money, and it certainly does not say we misspent it.

What it does is point out areas within DHS where auditors felt we either should have used a different portion of the federal money to fund a program, where we should improve our internal processes and, yes, where there’s room for improvement.

Let me be perfectly clear: DHS used all of that money to help people in need.

Michigan Department of Human Services’ 10,000 employees are charged with providing services to millions of state residents – from cradle to grave.

Our department educates new parents and caregivers on how to put babies to sleep (on their backs, alone in a crib with just a tight-fitting sheet) and helps families pay for their loved ones’ burials. We help people pay for food, get medical coverage and cover emergencies like avoiding a heat shut off.

The largest areas the auditors questioned was about $155 million used to fund college scholarships for low-income youths under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and which public dollars we used as matching money to receive additional federal funds.

DHS disagrees with the auditors’ interpretation of federal guidelines that cover those two areas. We based our decisions on federal publications and other states’ practices; and also consulted with an independent expert, who advised us we handled these two areas properly.

The disagreement is over a definition. It’s not an allegation of misspent dollars or violations.

The AOG report also questioned about $3,000 in the child day care program, which helps working parents pay for child care. The AOG had already addressed this issue in a previous audit and DHS has taken steps to correct the issues raised.

That includes a new payment system with new checks and balances, such as requiring both parents and providers to report the hours the provider worked and more internal case reviews to help identify common errors and improve accuracy.

We cooperated fully with the OAG during the process and received the audit in the spirit in which it is created: as a tool to make sure we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We support the process and believe it is necessary and right to hold us accountable for the use of these federal dollars.

As soon as auditors pointed out areas where we could shore up our programs and practices, we either made changes or have specific plans in place to implement their recommendations.

We remain committed to our mission to protect the state’s vulnerable children, adults and families, while also ensuring we remain fiscally responsible.

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Budget Cuts Equal People Cuts

Posted by Iahmed on September 21, 2009

With all the talk of Michigan’s budget trouble and proposed cuts, it’s important not to forget that behind every one of the state’s budget cuts is a person — a person who can least afford to lose even a portion of the state’s assistance programs.

It’s no secret that Michigan’s budget process is particularly painful this year. There’s a $2.8-billion hole to plug for Fiscal Year 2010, which is right around the corner.

There’s not enough money to go around, and legislators are being forced to make some tough choices.

But every single one of the proposed cuts will hurt somebody. No one knows better about hurting than the people coming to our Michigan Department of Human Services offices.

We’re seeing unprecedented numbers of people come to us for help. Just last month, almost 1.6 million people got food assistance, more than 1.7 million received Medicaid benefits, and our Child Protective Services workers investigated 5,814 allegations of abuse. We’ve been busy, to say the least!

The cuts proposed by Michigan legislative leadership would severely affect our ability to meet these needs. What’s at risk? Our friends, family, and neighbors won’t be able to meet their most basic needs.

One proposal calls for a $169-million cut that includes slashing the number of foster care workers and the staff at DHS who help all of those people who come to us when they’ve lost their job, need medical assistance or just plain can’t feed their family. This cut would drastically hurt the people we help everyday.

Michigan DHS offices are full of families – including children and the elderly – needing assistance. Our workers’ caseloads are steadily increasing, and processing time is steadily increasing as well. We do not need fewer workers, we need more workers in order to ensure the safety net can protect vulnerable children, adults and families.

The proposal also calls for cutting the program that helps working parents pay for child care. We know there’s a simple formula to get low-income people back to work: There must be jobs, transportation and affordable daycare.

Cutting daycare assistance would severely jeopardize low-income parents’ ability to work and compromises the safety and well-being of children. We must not go back to the days before subsidized day care for low income people, when children were left at home alone.

The proposal also calls for cutting the state disability assistance program, which helps people who are disabled and the elderly.

These cuts are too large, too deep and too damaging to the people of Michigan.  Undermining the protection of vulnerable children and adults will only hurt our state further

Please contact your state legislators and tell them to keep the safety net intact.

You can also contact your local United Way, community action agency and social service organizations;  share your concerns about the proposed human services cuts and ask them what you can do to assist them in preventing these cuts from happening.

Thank you for your help in this most challenging time.

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Providing Healthy Food to all, Regardless of Socioeconomic Status

Posted by Iahmed on July 24, 2009

Starting in June, Northwest Detroit Farmers Markets began accepting electronic benefit transfer cards, known as bridge cards.  This has allowed Michigan residents that receive food stamps to now be able to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables that are not offered at grocery stores.

Dozens of markets across the state have been approved this year to accept food stamps, a total of 29 markets in Michigan alone.  Michigan hosts the largest number of vendors in the Midwest.

Residents like Denise Hicks, who relies on food stamps for her groceries, could only spare a few dollars for fresh fruits and vegetables for her children at the markets before markets accepted food stamp dollars.  Now that Detroit Farmers Markets accepts bridge cards, Hicks can spend her food stamp allocation on fresh produce and save her disposable income for bills, while providing healthier meals for her family.

Record numbers of families crossing the poverty line and are becoming dependent on state welfare. And with the food stamp dollars have a multiplier effect on economic growth; Michigan farmers participating in this movement will benefit, as well as local economies all across the state.

With this growing trend in Michigan, thousands of Michigan households are now able to enjoy locally-grown fresh foods.  This is good news for our state and I urge other markets to follow in other footsteps.

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Michigan Creates Program to Help Eliminate Senior Abuse

Posted by Iahmed on July 16, 2009

Elderly abuse has increased 40 percent since 2008 with an astonishing estimate of 73,000 Michigan seniors being abused each year.  In times of economic distress, it is even more important to be watchful and take preventative measures to stopping elderly abuse.

Far too often, elderly abuse goes unreported.  Some seniors don’t admit they are suffering from abuse because they feel it questions their independency or because they are afraid the abuse will get worse.

Fortunately, there are programs such as Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) to lead in supporting victimized seniors. SALT’s mission is to raise awareness of crime and security issues related to the elderly.   SALT acts as a liaison between seniors and local police departments and provides updates on any fraudulent activity that may occur that could affect seniors.

SALT provides seniors with information on home security and personal safety and also identifies reoccurring problems, such as fraudulent activities and scams, and recommends programs that will benefit senior citizens.

In Flushing, Mich., SALT provides and installs safety items such as smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, dead bolt locks, 911 light switches and 911 reflective signs are available to residents 62 years of age or older.  SALT volunteers also reach out to seniors that live alone by personally calling them and providing personal interaction for those that may feel isolated.

Preventative measures need to be taken to stop elderly abuse and SALT provides a great initiative and helping hand to the victims of such a horrible crime.  To find the SALT program in your community contact your local police department.

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Ismael Ahmed, Russell Ebeid & John Dingell to be honored at ACCESS 37th Anniversary Dinner

Posted by Iahmed on June 24, 2009

DEARBORN – On May 10, a diverse group of leaders, dignitaries, and community members will gather to celebrate the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) 37th Anniversary to celebrate 37 years of service to the community and honor this year’s award recipients.

Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services and former ACCESS Executive Director, Ismael Ahmed, will receive the prestigious Arab American of the Year Award.

To read full article, please click here.

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Policy change works to provide permanent housing for the homeless, rent payments to those on brink of eviction

Posted by Iahmed on June 23, 2009

The Grand Rapid Press, May 27, 2009;  By: Ron Cammel

GRAND RAPIDS — A state policy shift will help a local effort to reduce the number of shelter beds for homeless people and increase permanent housing.

The Department of Human Services will allow area Emergency Shelter Partnership funds to go toward rental subsidies. The funds previously only could be used to reinburse homeless shelters and pay for hotel stays.

“Our 10-year plan is very consistent with this,” said Janay Brower, director of the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness.

“Allowing more flexibility with these funds enables a coordinated community response that will better serve the individuals’ and families’ long-term housing needs,” said Ismael Ahmed, DHS director, in a press release.

To read full article, please click.

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State of Michigan to Break Ground in Taylor

Posted by Iahmed on June 23, 2009

TAYLOR, MI – May 29, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — ProVisions, LLC and the State of Michigan will host a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. on June 2, 2009 to announce the Taylor Business Center ( as the Michigan Department of Human Services’ new office facility. The ceremony will take place at the Taylor Business Center’s location at 25637 Ecorse Road in Taylor, Michigan. The event’s speakers include Ismael Ahmed, State of Michigan Director of the Department of Human Services, and Murray D. Wikol – ProVisions, LLC President and CEO.

To read full article, click here.

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Video Interview with Ismael Ahmed

Posted by Iahmed on June 22, 2009

Interview with Ismael Ahmed, co-founder and long-time executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS).  Mr. Ahmed stepped down from his position at ACCESS in 2007 to accept the position of director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.

To watch interview, click here.

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