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Business communities can help end the addiction crisis

Crain Content Studio, the marketing-storytelling arm of Crain’s Detroit Business, worked with Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation to convene, moderate and report on a roundtable discussion among experts in education, medicine and government about the problem of addiction among young people. The discussion took place on Jan. 16, 2019 and was originally published on crainsdetroit.com on March 11, 2019.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency when 11.4 million people reported misusing opioids and 47,600 people died from opioid overdoses.

In Michigan, 1,941 people died from opioid overdoses that year, a 13.9 percent increase over the number of opioid deaths in the state in 2016, reports the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Addiction is rampant in our society. According to the Center on Addiction, one in four Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 is addicted. Still, substance abuse experts are waging an uphill battle against the stigma surrounding addiction, describing a deep-seated culture of shame and fear that prevents parents, schools, and business leaders from engaging in meaningful dialogue on the subject.

The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation in Detroit is trying to erase this stigma and change the culture and conversation around addiction and recovery.

As part of its efforts, the Foundation partnered with Crain Content Studio, the marketing-storytelling arm of Crain’s Detroit Business, to unite parents and experts from government, academic, and medical fields to discuss prescription drug addiction and how businesses can play a part in ending the crisis.

“Most of our initiatives for adolescents and young adults tend to be in mental health and in opioids and addiction. We strive to be a catalyst for change,” said Lawrence J. Burns, President and CEO of Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation. The $120 million independent nonprofit partners with more than 40 organizations to further its efforts to help children and young adults.

Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation has partnered with Detroit Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels and Lisa Daniels, who formed The Jamie Daniels Foundation in memory of their son, who died of an opioid overdose in 2016. The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation will help The Jamie Daniels Foundation with fund development, financial management and generating awareness about opioid abuse. The Daniels’ foundation provides resources and support to the increasing numbers of people battling addiction.

Wreaking havoc on families and businesses

Ken Daniels once saw a billboard that rang all too true. It read: “The brain isn’t the only organ impacted by addiction. It also breaks hearts.”

Daniels and his family are well acquainted with the heartbreaking consequences of youth drug addiction, a widespread problem as devastating as it is complex. Jamie Daniels was a smart kid. He did well in school and had a family and friends who loved him.

And yet at age 15, Jamie deliberately faked symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and failed clinical tests to obtain a prescription for Adderall, the stimulant drug used to treat the condition, said his mother, Lisa.

Though she harbored grave doubts about her son’s diagnosis and need for Adderall, Lisa followed professional recommendations, carefully dispensing the medication to Jamie at the prescribed dosage. “I thought I was in control of it,” she said.Source: National Institutes of Health-funded study by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan

TEEN DRUG MISUSE

Percent of the estimated 3.6 million U.S. high school seniors who misused prescription and over-the-counter drugs in 2018:
5 percent: Sedatives, such as Valium and Xanax
4.6 percent: Adderall
3.4 percent: Opioids, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin
3.4 percent: Cough/cold medicine
0.9 percent: Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Source: National Institutes of Health-funded study by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan

While attending Michigan State University, Jamie began abusing opioids as well as Adderall and other drugs. 

Jamie eventually completed two stints in rehab with his parents’ support. He moved into a sober living home in Florida and was under a physician’s care for depression and anxiety, conditions common in people suffering from addiction.

Until he was convinced by an acquaintance to switch to a less reputable recovery facility and doctor, Jamie was clean and on the road to recovery.

Less than two weeks after making the switch, 23-year-old Jamie died from an overdose of heroin laced with Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times stronger than heroin.

“There is a hole in my family’s heart that will never be filled,” said Ken Daniels. “And in the time we’re sitting here, we’ll lose eight more people (to addiction). So, we have to continue to talk about it. We need to talk about this in the home. We need to talk about it in the schools and at work; and hopefully in the long term, we can end this crisis.”

Young adults aged 18 to 25 comprise the largest segment of the population misusing and abusing prescription drugs, such as opioids.

But drug addiction doesn’t just impact families. Opioid addictions, specifically, cost businesses, educational and social institutions, criminal justice systems, and health care organizations billions of dollars yearly.

Altarum, an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit health research institute, estimates the economic burden of opioid addiction:

  • $800,000 per opioid overdose death in lost earnings and productivity
  • $1 trillion in costs to individuals, businesses and governments since 2001
  • $215.7 billion in health care costs for emergency and ongoing care from 2001 to 2017

In addition, employees with substance-use disorders miss an average 14.8 days of work a year — almost 50 percent more days of work than the typical employee average of 10.5 days, according to the National Safety Council. And about 70 percent of U.S. employers in construction, entertainment, recreation, and food service industries employ twice the average number of workers with substance use disorders than employers in other industries.

Equal-opportunity killer

Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation and its more than 40 partners are strategizing ways to end the addiction crisis. Solutions include ending the social stigma associated with addiction and recovery.

Despite the availability of accurate information, the perception persists that addiction is the result of an inherent character flaw, moral failing, or conscious decision and affects only a certain segment of society.“Nobody goes into their first use thinking, ‘Someday I’m going to be an alcoholic,’ or ‘Someday I’m going to abuse drugs,’” said Brian Spitsbergen, director of Community Relations for Growth Works Inc., a Plymouth-based facility that provides substance dependency and abuse treatments and solutions for adults and youth.

“There’s no one path to recovery that’s going to work for everybody, because every person is different and every brain is different,” Smith-Butterwick said. “So we are trying to do as many different things as we can to reach as many different parts of the population as we can.”

In 2017, Michigan lawmakers enacted opioid-related legislation that includes requiring the Michigan Department of Education, with direction from the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission, to provide school districts with models for how to instruct students on the dangers of prescription opioid abuse.

The American Medical Association classifies addiction as a disease, and its task force reports that people who misuse and abuse opioids suffer from a chronic medical condition, like type-2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

Dennis Martell, director of Health Promotion at Michigan State University, added that addiction is not an epidemic.

“It is endemic,” he said. “It’s part of our culture. It’s always been around.”

Spitsbergen, who has been sober for more than 32 years, agreed. “Ten percent of the population will meet the criteria for a substance use disorder in their lifetime,” he said. “It can happen to anyone. That’s the persuasive power that addiction has. It isn’t about the gutter.”

There could be two middle school-aged children who go to the same church and same school and have the same family life, Spitsbergen said. But their responses to their first experience with alcohol could be completely different.

“Because of things that might happen in their brain state, their lives might never be the same,” he said.

The stigma surrounding addiction is so prevalent that parents often don’t participate in potentially beneficial events, said Robert Shaner, superintendent of Rochester Community Schools. He noted only 125 parents attended a recent information session on vaping, opioids and other dangerous drug trends provided by the parent-teacher association for his district, which has 15,400 students.

“People almost treat addiction like they don’t want to ‘catch it,’” Shaner said, adding that some parents think, “‘If I’m not around the people it happened to, it’s not going to happen to my kid.’ Nobody wants to say they’ve got it, and no one wants to say they’ve been treated for it. This is a non-partisan, equal-opportunity killer that we have to attack as a community.”

The challenge of easy access

“There’s no pain greater than losing a child,” Shaner said, adding that the heaviest burden a school administrator must bear is to help parents bury their children.

“Over the past six years, we’ve done this because of opiates well over a dozen times,” said Shaner. “Recently, we had five graduates from one high school lose their lives to opioid addiction. They didn’t start as street junkies; they didn’t start out looking to be addicts. Some of the addictions were caused by self-medicating because of mental health issues, some started because of athletic injuries, and for some it was having access to the drugs.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says most teens find prescription and OTC drugs in their home medicine cabinets or on a kitchen shelf. And among those 12 and older who misused opioid pain relievers:

  • 40.4 percent got the drug from a friend or relative for free
  • 35.4 percent received a prescription from a doctor
  • 8.9 percent bought the drug from a friend or relative
  • 6 percent bought the drug from a dealer or stranger

Students as young as middle-school age hold “bowl parties,” said Carmen McIntyre, a physician who serves as associate chair for community affairs for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

“Everybody’s supposed to bring meds out of their parents’ medicine cabinet,” she explained. “They just take a few pills from each bottle so (parents) don’t notice anything. And then they put them all into this big bowl to share.”

McIntyre said children attending these parties also steal Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, though in her experience children panic and flee the scene rather than stick around and help the youth who overdosed.

When he was a high school principal, Shaner made a point of talking about drugs with his students. “I would say—and I don’t consider this a scare tactic—‘If you love your parents, don’t do these things. You don’t want them to feel that pain, if you truly love them.’”

One of the programs that Shaner, a former law enforcement officer, has helped implement in his district is a prescription drug drop-off program at parent-teacher conferences.

Prescription take-backs are a proven means of reducing the supply of unused, prescribed narcotics, preventing them from circulating among household and community members. Such programs allow members of the community to safely dispose of unused medications at designated locations staffed by law enforcement.

The prevention efforts of Michigan Opioid Prescribing Network, known as Michigan OPEN, include educating medical professionals, law enforcement and others on how to hold opioid collection drives in a manner that encourages participation and does not make community members feel uneasy or like criminals. So far the organization has helped organize drives in 60 cities, getting about 3,000 pounds of pills and 40,000 to 45,000 opioids off the street, said Chad Brummett, associate professor and director of the Division of Pain Research at the University of Michigan Medical School and co-director of Michigan OPEN.

10 WAYS THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY CAN HELP FIGHT DRUG DEPENDENCY AND ADDICTION

The experts say there’s considerable work to be done to reduce overdose deaths and prevent and treat addiction, but they can’t do it without the help of business leaders.
“If you’re thinking about something that takes away from your (company’s) bottom line, mental health and addiction are exponential problems,” Shaner said.
Roundtable participants shared their expert advice.
1. Advocate for more mental health services and counselors at schools: The largest percentage of prescription drug abusers are young adults aged 18 to 25 who are also beginning their careers with area businesses. “We all know K-12 education is important in solving the (opioid) problem, so we ought tobe funding it and supporting it in the right way,” Shaner said.
 
2. Sponsor youth peer programs: Eric Hipple, a former Detroit Lions quarterback and director of Outreach for the After the Impact program, suggests businesses underwrite programs that take a deeper dive into the problem of drugs and facilitate conversations and peer support among youths.
 
3. Support organizations that help: Provide meaningful support to nonprofits working to prevent and treat addiction. “Politics trump data, but business trumps politics,” said Martell.
 
4. Provide job training: People in recovery can’t return to the workforce without skills, said Smith-Butterwick. Helping recovery organizations incorporate job training would help recovering addicts support their recovery financially.
 
5. Make educating workers a priority:Hold human resources-developed programming on identifying, preventing, and treating opioid abuse.
 
6. Teach coping skills: People who develop a substance use disorder may begin using as a means of easing physical or emotional pain.Teaching alternative coping skills, such as meditation, can help promote healthy living.
 
7. Partner with insurers: Commit to offering employees robust, extended mental health treatment and addiction recovery services and challenge insurers to craft a benefit plan that reflects your commitment.
 
8. Become recovery friendly: Be mindful and welcoming of employees who suffer from addiction and/or are in recovery when planning social events. “They can’t tell anybody in the office, ‘I’m in recovery’ because it’s not comfortable,” said Smith-Butterwick. She recommends planning company events that don’t include alcohol.
 
9. Support employees in recovery:Workers often fear they will lose their jobs if their drug use is discovered. Instead, encourage and facilitate confidential addiction referral and recovery services for employees.
 
10. Engage in a community of businesses approach: Brummett emphasized the advantages of businesses combining resources as a community to financially support nonprofits dedicated to preventing and treating addiction. “Unfortunately, state and federal dollars will dry up, and we will still have issues with opioids, pain and mental health,” he said.

Prevention efforts

The number of medical professionals overprescribing potentially addictive medications drastically increased in the 1990s. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed at U.S. pharmacies tripled from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to 219 million prescriptions in 2011.

McIntyre said one of her patients died from an overdose two days after another physician — who was aware the patient suffered from addiction — injected her with the benzodiazepine Valium and gave her a prescription for 120 Valium in pill form.

McIntyre also cited her own experience with a pharmacy dispensing 100 Vicodin to her following a dental procedure. She pointed out to pharmacy staff that her dentist likely prescribed 10 Vicodin, not 100, but said the pharmacy refused to take back the medication after it had crossed the sales counter.

Brummett said regularly prescribing opioids following dental procedures “just doesn’t make sense.” The more doses doctors prescribe, he said, the more patients take, regardless of whether their pain is reduced.

Those aged 13 to 30 who filled an opioid prescription immediately before or after having their wisdom teeth extracted were about three times as likely as their peers to still be filling opioid prescriptions long after they needed them, according to a Michigan OPEN study.

“If you think about surgery (alone), the two factors that determine whether and how many opioids a person is going to get are the surgery they’re having and the surgeon caring for them,” explained Brummett.

Not prescribing opioids to the 80 percent to 90 percent of people who don’t need them could significantly reduce exposure and access to the drugs, both primary and secondary, Brummett said. Consequently, in 2017, Michigan OPEN released the first evidence-based prescribing recommendations in the country.

Health care providers in and outside the U.S. don’t know how much of the prescribed drugs patients actually use, he said. “Unless you ask people, they don’t tell you. The only metric you have is whether or not they refill.”

Brummett said having conversations about prescribing recommendations helps create a culture of opioid stewardship that opens the door to progressively more detailed conversations, such as how to deal with chronic users, including the 6 percent to 10 percent of patients who undergo surgery and begin taking opioids as a result.

McIntyre added, “We don’t need to just talk about prevention, we need to talk about developing as normal human beings. We have to start teaching people that after surgery, (you’re) supposed to have pain. Part of the purpose of pain is to slow you down so your body can heal.”

To learn more about combating addiction and ending the opioid crisis, visit The Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation at chmfoundation.org.

 

From livestock to hijackers, road challenges vary

Whatever the behavior or environment, there are about 1.25 million fatalities from traffic crashes around the world each year, reports the World Health Organization (WHO), which adds that many of these tragic incidences are preventable

“Some people are extremely skilled in their driving, but they make extremely poor decisions in the way that they drive,” said Kyle Green, International program manager for Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL). “They weave in and out and make unnecessary maneuvers. They are not following laws, not watching out for hazards in the road.

In 2003, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and Ford Motor Company Fund established Ford DSFL in the United States to help make teen drivers safer through free, advanced, hands-on training. DSFL focuses on vehicle handling, hazard recognition, speed and space management, and the perils of distracted and impaired driving.

In 2008, a visionary in Ford’s Asia-Pacific office realized the program could help save lives in the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand as well. The program spread to Taiwan and China in 2009 and then to India and South Africa in 2010. In 2012, Ford Fund partnered with global markets to help fund expansion into European countries.

Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, Ford DSFL has trained more than 1 million drivers and is operating in 41 countries. Ford DSFL plans to add programs in Madagascar and Morocco before the end of 2018.

New drivers aren’t always teen drivers

Many of the markets in which DSFL operates provide safe-driving training programs not only for teen drivers but also for newly licensed drivers of all ages. As countries develop economically and improve infrastructure, more people are able to afford vehicles. Accordingly, there might be first-time drivers who are in their 50s.

“There are countries where the car dealer will deliver the vehicle to someone who has never driven in a place where there’s no way to get training. In countries, such as Mexico, there are drivers who purchased licenses or simply drive unlicensed because they don’t have access to or won’t participate in driver education,” Green said.

Adapting to needs, country by country

At first, Ford DSFL provided other regions with a few web-based materials, such as 10 tips on safe driving. Those tips eventually evolved into specific information related to what drivers might encounter in each country.

Now, the global program is hands-on and customizable. One of the beauties of Ford DSFL is its ability to tailor programs to cultural differences, laws and infrastructure.

“We don’t give them DSFL in a box,” Green said. “We give them some of the basic principles of the program that are important to traffic safety. They can then customize the program to address the key issues in their respective countries or cities.”

Drivers in some countries put as much as they can on top of a vehicle or as many people on, in and around the vehicle as they manage, he said.

“We would tell them, ‘Don’t have too many passengers, and don’t overload the top of the vehicle,’” Green said.

Ford DSFL participants in Sub-Saharan Africa learn off-road driving due to terrain and road conditions.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, off-road driving and hijackings are prevalent. According to Tracker South Africa, there are about 45 cars hijacked there daily. More than 16,000 hijackings occurred in the region from April 2017 to March 2018 alone.

Accordingly, Ford DSFL customized a hands-on program to teach hijacking prevention in the region. And because roads often are unpaved and landscape rugged, Green said, drivers also need to understand how to drive safely off-road.

“Many people are not properly educated about the limits of a vehicle and what they should or should not attempt,” Green explained.

Ford DSFL launched in the Middle East in 2013. In March 2018, after Saudi Arabia lifted a royal decree banning women from obtaining a driver’s license, Ford DSFL launched Ford Driving Dreams DSFL for Her program in partnership with Effat University. The program trained more than 250 female students on the vehicle itself, on distraction, impairment and braking.

Across Europe, awareness of other road users has become increasingly important, with a rise in cycling and other mobility solutions in various countries and cities.

Research showed motorists in the United Kingdom shouted at 63 percent of cyclists in the past, higher than the 51 percent European average. Similarly, cyclists on the road shouted at 45 percent of participating U.K. motorists, higher than the European average figure of 33 percent.

Subsequently, Ford DSFL Europe introduced WheelSwap, a virtual reality application that allows participants to see the road from the perspective of cyclists and drivers. The aim is to encourage greater empathy between the different people sharing the road. About 90 percent of the U.K. WheelSwap participants said the experience changed their behavior within 2 weeks. The DSFL program has since been introduced across Europe and adapted in several Asia-Pacific and North American countries.

In September, Ford DSFL launched in the Czech Republic at the Brno airport. Instructors trained 350 drivers, ages 15-24, in emergency lane change maneuvers, emergency braking and skid corrections.

Vehicle maintenance is a key component of any Ford DSFL course. Instructors teach participants proper tire inflation and where to find information about the vehicle inside the door panel.

Racecar driver Martin Semerád was among the instructors at the event. He said, “Many of us take many advanced lessons in various fields, but rarely in driving. But it’s one of the most dangerous activity we practice almost every day.”

Debbie Chennells, Ford Fund manager of Ford of Europe, says after the first three years of working with more than 1,900 participants at Ford DSFL in Belgium, instructors concluded more than 90 percent of participants had never performed an emergency brake and needed two or three attempts during DSFL to use the brake pedal the way they should. Now that training is a key component in the program, and Ford Belgium is advocating for emergency braking to be part of standard driver training.

In Russia this year, Ford DSFL trained nearly 300 ambulance drivers in Ford Transit-converted ambulances in advance of the annual international soccer competition that drew more than 1 million visitors to the country.

“Drivers of emergency vehicles need to be especially cognizant of how to cross an intersection or blind corner, since they aren’t always in the position to stop at lights or signs. They are trained in emergency breaking and maneuvering. Somebody is going to cut in front of them. People panic and don’t know what to do in an emergency. We taught them how to drive a larger vehicle, maneuver through tight spaces, appropriate speed and other limits,” Green said.

One thing he noticed on a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, was the number of mopeds on the road. Despite the throng, Vietnam authorities have had a difficult time enforcing the helmet law. Though people started wearing them, many found literal loopholes.

“Some have a hole cut out of the back, so women can wear them with ponytails. Even when you do something good, there are challenges,” Green said.

Still, he said seeing countries take Ford DSFL and make the program their own has been remarkable. Vietnam has created a “No Honking” campaign because after a while people tune out the sound that’s supposed to put them on alert. And Russia used the program to train bus drivers, while the team in the Philippines trained Uber drivers.

Essentially, Green said, “The core of the program, just like in the U.S., boils down to teaching drivers how to be smart decision makers on the road. Drivers need practice, and they need to have empathy concerning what other drivers and pedestrians see.”

This story was originally published at FordBetterWorld.org. Read more about what Ford Fund is doing to improve driving conditions.

Filling the talent gap

Apprenticeships are an economical and sustainable option for businesses looking to attract and retain talent.

Growing up, Derrek Schwab listened as everybody — even his wood-shop and metal-shop teachers — told him he needed to go to college.

So, that’s what he did. After graduating from high school in Standish, a blue-collar town about 30 minutes north of Bay City, Schwab enrolled in an athletic training program at Saginaw Valley State University. He graduated in 2010.

But life didn’t play out as people told him it would.

“Finding a job in that career field was incredibly hard, especially a decent paying job to pay off my student loans and afford my housing,” Schwab said.

Schwab is a case study in the country’s $1.5 trillion student loan debt crisis. His story also helps illustrate the lack of knowledge youth and parents have regarding the variety of career paths available to them — a knowledge gap that has contributed to a mounting talent shortage.

Nearly half of U.S. employers are struggling to fill jobs, particularly Professional Trades career, despite more than 33 percent of adults older than 25 holding academic degrees, according to a 2017-18 report from ManpowerGroup. There are more than 6.7 million job openings nationwide.

“It’s starting to impact every business in every industry,” said Roger Curtis, director of the Department of Talent and Economic Development (Ted) of Michigan. “Every state is facing this challenge.”

Michigan’s talent gap became clear when the state was working to convince Amazon to open its second headquarters in Detroit earlier this year, Curtis said.

“We have a lot of great programs in place, but we need to do more,” he said, adding the No. 1 question companies looking to move to the state ask the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is not about incentives but about whether Michigan has the skilled talent it needs.

Key ingredient: Apprenticeships

Curtis said Michigan needs to do more than just prepare for those companies to move here; the state needs to help keep already established businesses thriving.

One way to help alleviate skilled-trades staffing challenges in particular is through training programs such as apprenticeships.

Read the full story. This story, sponsored by the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan, is published in full at Crain’s Detroit Business.

 

 

Nonprofits build empathy, reduce trauma among bullied youth

Children Picking on Child in Classroom

Ray Washington needed an escape.

His mother worked three jobs to provide for him and his three siblings; so, he spent considerable time with his grandmother and cousins. Yet, some young family members found entertainment in taunting him.

They called Ray fat and spread rumors that he was gay. They even said that because of this, his father, who didn’t contribute to the family, didn’t love him. He retreated.

“I stayed more to myself as a child,” says Washington, a recent graduate of Ripley High School in Ripley, Tenn.

In middle school, he began opening up, joining clubs and playing football. But he found things got worse. The name calling and rumors had spread to his school. And Washington was getting into fights because he didn’t know how else to combat the provocations.

But, classmates weren’t the only ones who bullied Washington. Some teachers told him he would never amount to anything and that he wasn’t good enough to participate in the clubs he joined.

“Racism is a big issue where I am from. The teachers stereotype. They think black kids are not able to be successful,” says Washington, who was a West Tennessee Senior Level Rep for his high school at the Tennessee Association of Student Councils. He plans to study criminal justice with a concentration on courts and law at the University of Tennessee at Martin this fall.

Distressed there was no safe place for him, Washington cried himself to sleep at night and in eighth grade began cutting his arms. At school, he wore long sleeves or led people to believe the wounds were the result of football. By eighth grade, he was suicidal.

This story is published in full at FordBetterWorld.org, which is supported by the Ford Motor Company Fund to create a deeper understanding of the people and communities we serve. Read the full story here.

Diversity: It’s in your control

Screen shot of ROI of D&I white paper
One of the benefits to having your own business is control. You control what your business is or is not. You decide whether you’re going provide one service or multiple, if you will hire a staff and, if you do, what kind people they will be.

Only you choose whether you will work for or with clientele you don’t particularly like because the money is good, or whether you will forego those clients whose work ethic doesn’t align with your own.

Personally, I find satisfaction from working with individuals and organizations who do a public good. I also enjoy having a wide variety of work (writing, editing, events and project managing) on myriad subjects (arts, business, education, nonprofits, journalism, corporate communications…) and learning from the work I do.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently partnered with one of my clients to develop stories related to the importance of diversity and inclusion. I appreciated learning while researching and reporting the recently published white paper: “The ROI of D&I.” (https://www.bofaml.com/content/dam/boamlimages/documents/articles/ID18_0705/roi_of_diversity_inclusion.pdf).

Prior, I didn’t realize how great the disparity in employment is between cultures and for those with disabilities. Neither did I understand how much greater businesses perform when they create ethnically diverse businesses.

Essentially, as one business owner said, creating diverse corporate cultures isn’t just about creating strategically smart businesses, it’s just the right thing to do.

“Division is easy. Diversity is the opportunity for the miracle of unity.” — Mike Patz, pastor of Greenhouse Church.

Read more:

Bank of America’s Embracing Diversity site: https://www.bofaml.com/en-us/content/embrace-diversity-inclusion-in-business.html

Detroit-area employers (Carhartt, Henry Ford Health System, Bridgewater Interiors, Barton Malow) on diversity and inclusion: https://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20180430/custom/659156/the-roi-of-dampi-why-promoting-a-culture-of-diversity-and-inclusion

Nonprofits at work

News page at fordbetterworld.org

The United States boasts nearly 1.6 million nonprofits, including civics leagues, chambers of commerce, public charities and private foundations.

My client, the Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services is among those organizations. In addition to supporting other nonprofits, education and communities around the globe, Ford Fund is sharing stories about essential issues through its website, FordFund.org.

As writer and editor at large, I have come upon a multitude of nonprofits supporting children, veterans, and tackling poverty in impoverished communities. Many are working to end homelessness and illiteracy and providing disaster relief as well. Some of what’s happening is powerfully sad. But so much more is inspiring beyond measure. I learned about a community in which 15 teens died in 15 months, how a grieving mother decided to change the scenario and how Ford Fund stepped up to help

I also discovered how:

  • Gino Tubaro uses his love of invention to develop 3d-manufactured prosthetics for children in need;
  • Alvin Ailey, 826, Mosaic Youth Theatre and others are supporting the needs of children through creative programming;
  • the Center for Native American Youth is empowering students in neglected communities;
  • triple-amputees use their disabilities to inspire others;
  • basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabaar slam dunks racism;
  • social entrepreneurs are acquiring capital to make change;
  • Smashwords founder Mark Coker discovered his calling; and
  • college students created jobs for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

Read about issues that matter: Visit FordFund.org today.

If you have a story you think we should share, let me know in the comment area below.

Homeless veterans find help in community of tiny homes

The 10 months Richard Butler spent in Vietnam were the scariest of his life. For solace, he turned to drugs.

Richard Butler smiling.

Richard Butler

“That was the only way I could see myself making it through. And if I didn’t make it through, I was planning to be too numb to realize it,” says Butler, 64, who served in the Marine Corps from 1971-1974.

Addicted, things got worse when he returned home. “I made a lot of bad life choices and I had a lot of friends who were in the streets doing nonproductive stuff,” he says.

Butler wound up robbing banks and spending “quite a bit of time” in prison. He also entered drug rehab three different times. Eventually, he found himself homeless.

However, Butler isn’t alone.

Homeless veterans by the numbers

• 181,500 veterans are in state and federal prisons and local jails
• 40,000 veterans are homeless, a 40 percent decrease since 2012
• 11 percent of homeless adults are veterans
• 20 percent of the male homeless population are veterans
• 51 percent of single homeless veterans have disabilities
• 50 percent suffer from serious mental illness
• 70 percent are dealing with substance abuse

 

Sources: Veterans Bureau of Justice, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and National Coalition for Homeless

Most homeless veterans are loners, male and single and suffer from mental illness and/or alcohol and drug abuse. Thankfully, organizations such as Veterans Outreach of Wisconsin in Racine are creating solutions to end homelessness among veterans.

Veteran village

Jeff Gustin, co-founder of Veterans Outreach, is part of the solution.

Read the full story at FordBetterWorld.org.

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