Success Stories

Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSAS) provides a wide-range of services to approximately 9,000 individuals annually.  KCMHSAS has been able to increase service flexibility and choices for those that we serve. Please browse these photos and meet some individuals that KCMHSAS serves. Our organization and our partnering provider agencies are proud to have assisted these individuals in achieving their outcomes, realizing their dreams and desires, and improving their overall quality of life.


Promoting Self-Determination While Utilizing Its Principles to Earn a College Degree

Since 2007, John has been directly hiring his own staff through a self-determination agreement with KCMHSAS. John's staff have assisted him becoming an active member of the Kalamazoo community and have helped him in his pursuit of a college degree at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC). As John has increased his independence, he no longer requires his staff to attend classes with him. John is pursuing a degree in Communications and he is completing his general education requirements, such as Biology 101. As a Local Leader with Michigan Partners for Freedom, John speaks to groups in Kalamazoo County about the freedom of living a self-determined life and how the philosophy of self-determination has helped him move towards his goal of living independently in his community. John plans on moving into his first apartment soon and credits the flexibility inherent in self-determination arrangements with getting him to where he is now: an active member of his community living the life he chooses. 


John is now employed as the first Peer Mentor for Adults with Developmental Disabilities at KCMHSAS. 

John's Story
John during class at KVCC

STAR Award Nominee for Community Contributions

Doris Jarrett is using the principle of self-determination to run her own cleaning business and connect to her community. D’s Green Cleaning Service, which uses only environmentally friendly products, was created by Doris with assistance from a supported employment company. Doris said she is always looking for more business.

Doris is also becoming more connected to her community through volunteer activities. She volunteers at a child care center, where she rocks babies to sleep two days a week. Doris recently began volunteering at a local nursing home twice a week. She helps wherever she is needed, including at meal times, arts and crafts activities, and sing-a-longs. She was nominated for a STAR award in April. The STAR award recognizes people or groups who “exemplify the essence of volunteering”.
Doris volunteering at  child care center
Doris volunteering at a Kalamazoo child care center.

Auto Enthusiast Would be Happy to Help You with Your Next Car Purchase

Ross expressed his desire to his family and supports coordinator to move out of his family’s home and into an apartment with a friend that he met while taking classes at MRC Industries. He soon realized that living independently comes with lots of responsibility, but it's also a great deal of fun. Ross continues to take classes such as computer training and money management, and he realizes those classes will assist him in coming years as his mother currently assists Ross with financial issues. Residential Opportunities Inc. assists Ross with such things as running errands, attending community events, going to the movies, meal preparation, and laundry. Transportation has always been of interest to him and Ross is proud to be employed at Harold Zeigler Auto Group in Kalamazoo. Ross started at the auto dealership by cleaning off the cars in the show room and then moved up to the sales department after observing other salespeople. "Working at Harold Zeigler is a life changing experience and I feel more responsible about my life now," said Ross. He also shared, "If anyone is interested in purchasing an automobile come see me. I'm sure that I can assist you!"
Ross working at  Harold Zeigler
Ross working at Harold Zeigler

Triumph Over Adversity

Tim’s story is a wonderful example of how a combination of family and professional supports can help an individual overcome a very difficult period and even change one’s life for the better.   Following injuries sustained in an attack, Tim was referred to KCMHSAS for services.  By working with a KCMHSAS Supports Coordinator, Tim was able to access services and supports to help him become more involved in his community.  Shortly after moving into an apartment, Tim met his wife and he is excited to say that they are approaching their first wedding anniversary.  Tim also worked with an employment training specialist to launch his own soda vending machine business which has grown to 3 machines at different community businesses.  At the encouragement of his wife and her family, Tim has become very active in his church which was something he had long held an interest.  “Everybody knows my name.  They accept me for who I am,” said Tim.  Tim has maintained a positive attitude about how his life has changed over the last 3 years.  “My life is going perfect, how I want it,” said Tim.  “Everything turned out good.”

Tim with 1 of his soda vending machines.

Rakiyta's Sweets and Treats

Starting a business can be a daunting task, but it was a goal of Rakiyta’s and one that she accomplished. “Rakiyta’s Sweets and Treats,” a vending machine business, was recently launched in the Kalamazoo area after a good deal of research and hard work. Working with her supports coordinator, an employment training specialist, and Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Rakiyta composed a business plan and applied for a business license. She currently owns one vending machine and has plans to expand her business after she learns the ins and outs of the local market. Rakiyta loves running her own business and seeing that all her hard work has paid off.
Rakiyta at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of her vending machine business.

Enjoying Retirement by Serving Others

After he retired from his long-time job at Hardings Market, Holitan wanted to stay active in his community. Working with his Supports Coordinator, Holitan explored community volunteer opportunities until he found one he loves: calling the weekly bingo game at a local nursing home. One of the aspects that makes Holitan's story even more inspiring is that he is legally blind. Holitan knew this wa s the volunteer opportunity for him so his Supports Coordinator helped Holitan locate braille bingo call numbers to bring to the weekly game. Holitan loves to be able to help at the nursing home by calling bingo and interacting with the residents. Holitan as been hiring his employees directly through Self-Determination for several years and this is one of many ways he has been able to access and become more involved in his community.
Holitan calling bingo at a local senior center.

Alternatives to Guardianship Preserves Individual's Right to Control Her Life

Ronna is a strong believer in alternatives to guardianship. Despite requiring frequent trips to a specialist for ongoing medical treatment, Ronna and her family have never wanted to remove Ronna’s ability to make her own choices. Ronna’s brother works with her as her patient advocate through a medical Power of Attorney.

Ronna has loved becoming more involved in her community since moving in with her brother several years ago. Ronna’s brother has empowered and encouraged her to try new experiences, such as volunteering at Heritage Nursing Home, Edison Neighborhood Center, and most recently assisting in planting flowers in Bronson Park. Ronna recently self-published her first book, a collection of 200 poems she has written over the last five years.

Ronna after a recent poetry reading.

Self-Advocate's Persistence Provides Career Opportunities for Other Individuals with Disabilities

Joshuah has always been fascinated by computers. A self-described “whiz kid,” Joshuah has been working with computers since he was four years old. His love for technology continued into high school, where he enrolled in a class in network administration during his junior year. Initially faced with resistance from school administration, Joshuah and his father advocated for Joshuah’s eventual placement into the course where Joshuah's work earned an A+ grade for the semester.

Shortly after the class concluded, Joshuah’s father ran into the class instructor at the grocery store. The instructor, who also owns a local computer networking firm, told Joshuah’s father that his experience teaching Joshuah had helped him to better understand the capabilities of individuals with developmental disabilities. As a result, the instructor had recently hired an employee that utilizes a wheelchair, something he said he would not have done before he had Joshuah as a student. Joshuah’s self-advocacy not only resulted in his admittance to a class he found fascinating, but it also opened up opportunities for others.

Now living in his own apartment in the community, Joshuah recently began his first semester at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) where he plans on continuing his studies in information technology. After completing his studies, Joshuah hopes to work in the information technology field.
Joshuah working on an an assignment for his class at KVCC