TO: The DMR Community
FROM: Gerry Morrissey
DATE: December 23, 2003
RE: Update 136

Holiday Wishes

In the midst of the 2003 Holiday Season, during this time of giving, I reflect on the dedication and care that staff of the Department of Mental Retardation and the staff of our providers show to the people we support, their families and loved ones. In these difficult fiscal times, it is especially noteworthy that the people who work with us and for us are doing a tremendous job. So many people who rely on us can continue to do so without worry because the people who work with us and for us are doing a tremendous job. For that you have my heartfelt thanks and best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.

Holiday Health Tips

The holidays are a time for celebration and sharing. We wish you and your family all the joys of the season. With the holiday season and the winter months upon us, this is also a good time to remind providers and staff of some very important tips to help everyone stay healthy and safe.

Remember to:

  • Change the batteries in all battery operated smoke detectors and flashlights
  • Ensure that the fireplace is inspected and cleaned for winter use
  • Arrange for the furnace to be inspected and cleaned, and ensure that there is plenty of fuel to begin the winter.
  • Space heaters should not be utilized as a heating solution.
  • Confirm that there is an effective plan in place and that flashlights are accessible in the event of a power outage
  • Ensure that emergency contact information is readily available to all
  • Make sure that shovels, salt and sand are in place and readily available
  • Make sure that the car is winter-ready inclusive of good tires and that it has at least half a tank of gas so that it is ready for use. Keep a blanket in the trunk in case of a problem in cold weather.
  • Ensure that all egresses are free of snow and ice, and are clear and safe for travel, including wheelchair ramps
  • Continue to ensure that there is adequate staffing, especially during and around holidays, winter storms, and possible illness
  • Inform all staff of individuals' holiday plans and routines
  • Be sure that everyone is aware of the emergency procedures and contact people
  • Encourage everyone to dress appropriately for winter weather, including warm, waterproof footwear and hats and gloves. Remember, people who are less mobile are more sensitive to the cold, so bundle them up.
  • Make sure that individuals are not left unattended in cars or vans.
  • Ensure that holiday items are used safely, for example, a live Christmas tree needs to be watered regularly so as not to become a fire hazard, holiday lights and candles should not be unattended, and extension cords should not be used
  • Be aware of signs and symptoms of illness and take appropriate steps. Be especially alert to fevers that last longer than 24 hours and low body temperature. They can be early signs of serious infection so seek medical attention quickly.
  • Remind everyone to wash their hands frequently or use alcohol-based hand rubs to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading colds and flu.
  • Be aware of individuals' dietary restrictions and needs, especially with the availability of more and different holiday foods, including alcohol.

And finally, be aware that the holiday season can trigger feelings of sadness and loneliness for many. Increased anxiety, agitation, loss of appetite and weeping may be symptoms of the "holiday blues". Some individuals may need a clinical consultation, but others will greatly benefit from increased staff time and quiet
leisure activities. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote many years ago, "The only true gift is a portion of oneself"

Look for more tips on "Living Well" which is appearing on the DMR Web Site.

Health Promotion and Coordination Initiative

In a series of 10 trainings statewide between December 2 and 11, DMR introduced the provider community to Phase I of its major "Health Promotion and Coordination Initiative." The initiative focuses on prevention, health care advocacy for direct support professionals and enhancing the quality of the health care encounter. The DMR web site now has a "Health and Wellness Promotion" link that features all information and documents related to this important initiative. We encourage you to check the site at for this and other health related information.

HUD Grant to Berkshire County ARC

The U.S. Department of House and Urban Development has awarded a $1.39-million to Berkshire County ARC to rehabilitate two co-op apartment buildings located in Pittsfield that will enable 12 individuals with developmental disabilities to live independently while having 24-hour access to staff support.

The organization is one of only five programs in Massachusetts to receive funding under HUD's Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program and the only program in Western Massachusetts to receive funding this year. The grant is also the largest award.

Dr. Edwin Mikklesen Receives Award from American Psychiatry Association
Edwin Mikkelsen, M.D. has received the 2003 Frank J. Menolascino Award for Psychiatric Services for Persons with Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities by the American Psychiatric Association. In providing this award, the members of the selection committee wanted to convey their recognition of the extraordinary past and ongoing contributions made by Dr. Mikkelsen in the field of the psychiatry of mental retardation.

Community Partnerships for Older Adults

Community Partnerships for Older Adults is an eight-year, $20-million grant initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This national program fosters community partnerships that will improve long-term care and supportive services systems to meet the current and future needs of older adults. The Call for Proposals and information about how to apply are available online at the program Web site:

IRS Policies on Personal Care Workers

The Internal Revenue Services has published proposed policies and procedures regarding personal care workers and the use of fiscal intermediaries. The guidance includes clarification on withholding and reporting requirements. Anyone can access this publication at

Medicaid Database Available

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KCMU), along with the National Conference of State Legislatures, is releasing a new online database on Medicaid benefits in the 50 states, DC and the U.S. Territories. The new database, available at is intended to help the public better understand the Medicaid program at a state level. The database is comprehensive, with information about benefits covered by each state, for what populations the benefits are available, and the limitations, co-payments, and payment rules that apply to the benefits. The database is searchable by Medicaid benefit as well as by state.

Family Caregiver Month Observed

The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) launched Massachusetts Family Caregiver Month in Attleboro on November 5th. EOEA operates the Massachusetts Family Caregiver Support Program in collaboration with the Area Agencies on Aging/Aging Service Access Points. The program seeks to alert family caregivers to those resources available to them while also recognizing and honoring their commitment and sacrifice for the good of loved ones. Across the Commonwealth, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are caring for an elder or a disabled child or sibling while striving to meet the other commitments and responsibilities in their lives. These efforts were recognized in November by EOEA.

Beaverbrook Step Turns 30

On December 4th, a celebration was held at the Hellenic Cultural Center in Watertown in recognition of Beaverbrook STEP's 30th anniversary. The keynote speaker was Congressman Barney Frank of Newton.

Springfield Conference on Transitions from School to Work

The DMR - Central/ West Regional Office co-sponsored with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, New England Business Associates and Springfield College the conference, "Making Connections and Creating Collaborations: Successful Transitions From School to Work" that was held on November 21st. The goal of the conference was to bring educators together with other partners in Western Massachusetts to learn about and share issues and ideas concerning school-to-work transition issues.

Over 100 individuals attended. There were special education directors and other school personnel from public schools in Western Massachusetts, DMR and MRC staff, local employment providers, community colleges, independent living centers, one stop career centers and regional employment boards.

DMR's NRS Competes in Special Olympic Fall Senior Sports Classic

On October 24th and 25th, Team NRS (Northeast Residential Services) made its debut at the Massachusetts Special Olympic Fall Senior Sports Classic. The event was held at the Sea Crest Hotel in North Yarmouth and open to athletes aged 35 or over who can compete in sports such as bocce, horseshoes, race walking, and golf skills. There were also competitions in soccer and equestrian events. This year's Classic, held at Mashpee High School, hosted 21 teams from 11 areas across the state. Team NRS, comprised of 16 athletes from 8 NRS homes along with 10 volunteers, participated in race walking, bocce, and horseshoes. Congratulations to Team NRS who finished the day with 19 medals: 4 gold, 10 silver, and 5 bronze.

Barbara Mazzella Recognized by AAMR

At the annual conference of the Northeast Region X of the American Association of Mental Retardation, Barbara Mazzella, Administrator of the Governor's Commission on Mental Retardation, received the 2003 Leadership Award in recognition for her outstanding contributions in training and outreach in the field of mental retardation. The conference was held on October 20th in Lenox, Massachusetts.

This information is provided by the Department of Developmental Services.