Cody Masson prevails in NLCMH lawsuit

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ngd- Maybe the pleadings would be useful in other CMH districts…

CODY MASSON

A woman suing Northern Lakes Community Mental Health for neglect after home health staffing shortages resulted in repeated lapses in her care has prevailed in court.

Judge Kevin Elsenheimer signed a consent judgment for permanent injunction Wednesday, ordering NLCMH to provide Cody Masson 20 hours per day of community living services in her home, without disruption.

“It gives me a major sense of relief,” Masson said Thursday.

Masson, 32, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, uses a power wheelchair and a body brace and needs help dressing, cooking, eating, showering, using the bathroom and transferring in and out of her wheelchair.

Paid staff — called “Community Living Supports” — employed by vendors under contract with NLCMH had for years worked in her Garfield Township apartment in shifts until last spring, records show.

That was when Masson said some CLS workers began either not showing up for their shifts or providing substandard care, including several incidents involving a worker who abused alcohol.

On one occasion, the worker and her boyfriend let themselves into Masson’s home while she was away; Masson arrived back in her apartment to find the couple asleep after an obvious drinking binge, according to court records.

Masson sought legal representation and Traverse City attorney Jay Zelenock filed suit July 6, 2020 on her behalf in 13th Circuit Court.

Zelenock in court filings pointed to Recipient Rights complaints which showed Masson’s repeated pleas for help from NLCMH not only went unheeded, but resulted in a suggestion that Masson be placed in an adult foster care home.

Recipient Rights functions as a kind of internal affairs for community mental health organizations.

Masson, who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, is working on a master’s degree and is writing a novel, repeatedly told organization staff she wanted to remain in her own home, with her two cats and her service dog.

The Michigan Mental Health Code states organizations providing services covered by Medicaid, are required to provide those services “in the least restrictive setting available.”

Elsenheimer signed a preliminary order in August, which directed NLCMH to staff for Masson’s care even if that meant the organization had to pay more to its vendor, Real Life Living Services, in order to do so.

Masson said her care improved after that order was signed, and any difficulties she’s had since then haven’t been with the workers themselves but rather with office bureaucracy.

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