Person Centered Planning is Driven by Nightmares as well as Dreams

The blog this week is by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute In the years before the Michigan Mental Health Code was amended to require Person Centered Planning for each individuals with a disability receiving services, I was fortunate to be able to work with John and Connie O’Brien and Beth Mount, my primary guides to this inventive technique for helping a person guide his own destiny.

I also worked closely with two of the leaders in Michigan, Rebecca Shuman and Myrna Bartlett, who did so much to pioneer the concept of Supported Community Living in our state. Rebecca and Myrna were two of a core group of people, along with Ann Mitchell and Art LeTourneau, who made Midland such a resource for the rest of the state.

I remember Rebecca and Myrna doing a workshop on Person Centered Planning here in Kalamazoo. When she got to the section in the planning process to talk about Nightmares, Myrna talked about being at the museum one day and seeing a group of people with disabilities all following someone who was obviously a professional responsible for them. As she looked about how poorly groomed each person was, she was particularly struck by one person wearing socks that did not match. She thought about what her son Tim’s future could be unless she and her husband Ed made something very different happen.

What the Bartlett’s, Rebecca and others in Midland did was to establish what became known throughout the state as ‘Tim’s House’. Myrna and Ed purchased the house in the lot behind their house and with the collaboration of Mental Health and the Midland Arc developed a Circle of Friends for Time that supported his choices and helped him live on his own terms.

From Myrna’s presentation it was obvious that her fears about how badly Tim’s future could be, as well as her dreams of the best possible, drove her to break new ground for Tim. It is only through a Person Centered plan that encompasses the whole range of life possibilities that an individual can realize the best possible future.