Michigan Benefits Access Initiative MBAI. Utilizing best available practices to serve Michigan’s returning citizens and veterans. What is MBAI?.
Michigan Benefits Access Initiative MBAI Utilizing best available practices to serve Michigan’s returning citizens and veterans
What is MBAI? The State of Michigan and networks of nonprofits across the state have recognized the critical nature of public benefits for those reentering the community and have forged a partnership through the Michigan Benefit Access Initiative (MBAI) to guide nonprofits and state departments to assist more families in claiming benefits
…What is MBAI? The overarching goal of this project is to assure prisoners complete applications for state and/or federal benefits they may be entitled to prior to release with the intent of benefits being in place as close to the return to the community as possible
…What is MBAI? Benefit eligibility is based on disability, chronic medical conditions, income, and military service
Who is MBAI? The role of MCCD in this effort was to hire and supervise staff, acquire the necessary training, assist with the evaluation, and assure that timely access to benefits becomes institutionalized as a standard operating procedure in the corrections system
…Who is MBAI? A large network of state departments (i.e. Corrections and Human Services), Michigan Association of United Ways, service providers, non-profits, funders, and evaluators to name a few. Specific to our intent and purpose is the following: • The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) is dedicated to providing the greatest amount of public protection while making the most efficient use of the State's resources. • The Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD) is a statewide organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of policies and systems aimed at preventing and controlling crime. • The United Way of Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) is to mobilize the caring power of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan to improve communities and individual lives in measurable and lasting ways.
Why MBAI? • As corrections systems widen their focus from custody, security and compliance to include reentry with a reduced likelihood of reoffending, a safe and supported transition back into community has great importance • Many former offenders (veterans, pregnant women, the aged, the blind, the disabled, and others with a high risk of living in poverty) reenter their community eligible for public benefits such as Medicaid, SSI, VA Benefits, food stamps, etc.
…Why MBAI? • Based on MDOC figures and percentages of those eligible in the general population, it is estimated that 7% of Michigan prisoners are veterans, 2,000 are eligible Medicaid, and upon release nearly all will be eligible for food stamps or other poverty based benefits. • Thus far, nearly 3% of those prisoners pre-screened for benefits by MCCD appear minimally eligible for benefits upon release.
Why continued… • Unprecedented numbers of Michigan households qualify for public benefits and both the State of Michigan and nonprofits are struggling to meet the needs of the growing number of low-income families. • Each year, an estimated $930,000,000 in public benefits goes unclaimed in Michigan. • A variety of factors present barriers to enrollment, including lack of information about how and where to apply, complicated paperwork, lack of proper identification, and the stigma associated with using public benefits. • Ex-offenders and veterans alike are identified populations of citizens that traditionally have underutilized public benefits. • Statistics show that the first several weeks upon release are critical for successful reentry and financial stabilization plays a major role
MCCD’s Eligibility Specialists • Hired to screen prisoners prior to release for potential eligibility • Go into the prisons and interview those that meet basic eligibility requirements • Assist prisoners with attaining ID’s such as birth certificates • Assist prisoners with filling out benefit applications • Assist prisoners obtain additional documentation when required, such as medical and mental health records if possible • Provide prisoner with instructions for finalizing application submissions at various stages
Screening for the Big 7 • Food Assistance (Bridge Card) • Cash Assistance • Veterans Benefits (According to Discharge Status) • Medicaid • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) • State Disability Assistance (through DHS)
Additional Supports Provided • Birth Certificate application and cost provided • Social Security Number verification and status • HIV/AIDS status with referral to local agency • Local VA Hospital, Office, CBOC, or Elvin Barren available for identified need or service • Local identified Service Organization associated with The Michigan Veterans Coalition, capable of assisting with veterans’ services according to available resources
Eligibility Specialist’s Training Phase • MDOC Training (Correctional Facilities & Field Operations Administrations, respectively) • Prisoner Reentry 101 • Evidence Based Practices • Benefits Training (VA, Federal, and State) • Collaborative Case Management • Motivational Interviewing • Vital Documentation Processing • MDOC documentation, database, and records
Pre-Screening PhaseAlthough ongoing, a bulk of Pre-Screens were conducted to get started • Pre-Screens for eligibility conducted by: - Review Pre-Sentence Investigation - Review of MDOC file - Review of MDOC medical record - Review of OMNI case notes
Facility Interview Stage • Interviews conducted based upon perceived eligibility • Applications completed with prisoner • Sign releases of information • Provide “Next Steps” sheet/card to prisoner • Send applications to medical records for inclusion in file given upon release
Specializing & Prioritizing Veterans The MBAI remains steadfast in its commitment to prioritize the returning veteran so that they receive the necessary supports and services they are due according to their needs and eligibility criteria
The Veteran’s Big 3 1.) Any of the Big 7 (benefits through DHS and SSA) - SSI, SSDI - SDA, FIP, FAP - Medicaid, ID, etc. 2.) Service Connected Disability Compensation - Screened for eligibility based upon VA criterion 3.) Non-Service Connected Pension - Screened for eligibility and referred accordingly
Veteran’s Benefits Statistics collected by the Eligibility Specialists thus far, suggest that approximately 3% of the total amount of prisoners screened are veterans. Due to the emphasis to assist veterans, a much higher percentage of those identified as having served will be interviewed to verify discharge status and eligibility for standard and/or VA benefits
US Dept. of Veterans Affairs The MBAI partners would like to thank those representing the VA who have contributed to the ongoing strategic planning, technical assistance, and overall encouragement to better serve veterans as they transition into the community
…Thank You! Elvin V. Barren, ACSW, LMSW Outreach Social Worker Healthcare for Reentry Veterans Program Robert Price, Coordinator Veterans Treatment Court VA Regional Office Janel Galvan, Casualty Coordinator VA Regional Office
…Thank You! The Michigan Veterans Coalition
….from the Departments of Michigan: • American Legion • Disabled veterans of america • Marine corps league • Military order of the purple heart • Veterans of foreign wars
Special Thanks James Topps, Director American Legion Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Mark Sutton, Director American Legion Public Relations
Taking it to the Streets The final piece of the puzzle is to systematically implement that seamless transition of services and benefit acquisition to both the professional correctional and benefits workers in the field
Field Operations Administration The MBAI partners are continuously strategizing best practices to assure that veterans who appear to qualify for assistance are cared for from the screening process, into the community, and throughout their parole