From our friends at The Newaygo County Autism Community
Fact: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
Autism Acceptance: “Please don’t ignore us or look the other way when we approach you. Doing that to us will note make us or our disability go away. We didn’t have a choice about our disability, but you definitely have a choice in how you accept us.” Annie Forts
Fact: ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S. There are 3.5 million individuals on the autism spectrum. 1 in 54 children will be diagnosed with ASD, boys being 4 times more likely to be affected.
Autism Acceptance: “Autism is part of my child. It’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis.” S.L. Coelho
Fact: The learning and cognitive abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to significantly impacted.
Autism Acceptance: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Each one of them is so wonderfully different.”Autism Parenting Magazine
Fact: Oftentimes there are no differences in how people with ASD look that would set them apart from others, but they may communicate, interact, behave, learn and experience the world in ways that are different from most.
Autism Acceptance: “Different, not less.” Temple Grandin
The Newaygo County Autism Community is nonprofit organization supporting families impacted by autism. Prior to the pandemic, the NCAC held an annual walk to promote awareness and raise funds, planned educational support group meetings and sponsored a monthly swim time at Tamarac for individuals with ASD and their families.
The organization also awards grant monies to Newaygo County residents living with ASD. In the last round, 6 grants were awarded. The next grant round will be in July and all grants are made possible by donations from generous individuals and businesses throughout Newaygo County. Donations are always welcome. For more information, access the Newaygo County Autism Community Facebook page or send inquiries to NCAC P.O. Box 56 Fremont, Michigan 49412.
Vaccine availability expands to all 16 and over.
Spectrum Health leadership sounded a cautionary note at a news briefing Tuesday citing rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions as well as a climb in positivity rates.
Spectrum Health of West Michigan President Dr. Darryl Elmouchi: “Just 2 1/2 weeks ago we were in the low 50’s system wide when it came to COVID beds and as of today we had 139.”
While during the last surge in the fall the average age of those admitted was 73, the current average age is 60. Dr Elmouchi spoke to the number of people over 70 having been vaccinated as part of the reason they were seeing a younger group of people needing hospitalization during the current climb.
Pediatric admissions for COVID were also reported to be on the rise.
Though wary of another surge similar to what was seen last fall, there was a definite note of optimism sounded when it came to distribution of the vaccines and their effectiveness against the virus.
“We have yet to admit someone who has been fully vaccinated,” said Spectrum Health CEO Tina Freese Decker
Yesterday the West Michigan Vaccination Clinic, a collaborative effort among local health departments and hospitals, put 12,500 shots in arms and as of today anyone 16 and over can make an appointment for a vaccination by going to
“My wife just made an appointment for our 17 year old son and I can’t wait for him to get it,” added Elmouchi.
Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial seminar to help beat pandemic isolation, loneliness with hope, mental wellbeing
FREMONT, Mich., March 24, 2021 – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is offering a free virtual seminar to help those experiencing isolation and loneliness during the pandemic. The event is on April 8, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Part of Gerber Memorial’s “Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies” series of free seminars, Jenny Longfellow, life purpose and spiritual coach, Community Hope Christian Counseling Center, will discuss ways to maintain mental health as people maintain social distancing. Longfellow will share tips and techniques to shift mindsets and regain control of thoughts in order to live life with purpose.
The seminar can be viewed on a smartphone or on a computer, laptop or tablet. To join the seminar, register by calling 231.924.3073. your mobile device or compute
“During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the United States have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, and Gerber Memorial is excited to offer a free seminar that can help people cope, find hope and maintain their mental wellbeing,” said Jena Zeerip, Gerber Memorial community programs supervisor. “With social distancing and self-isolation becoming a new normal for people to stay safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19, many people find themselves battling with boredom, isolation and loneliness. Our message to families and individuals in our communities is that we can regain hope even in these challenging times.”
Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial partners with community, youth.
FREMONT, Mich., March 18, 2021 – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is partnering with community advocates such as the Headway Coalition, the BreatheWell action team, and local youth from Newaygo County to take out nicotine during Take Down Tobacco Day on April 1. The celebration will feature activities to empower youth, information about quitting nicotine and tobacco use, and a special virtual interview by nationally renowned healthy lifestyle speaker Daniel Ament, a double-lung transplant recipient who lives on the east side of Michigan.
Take Down Tobacco Day is a national day of activism that empowers youth to stand up and speak out against big tobacco. Every year, students from across the county plan tobacco and nicotine prevention activities in their schools and community. This year’s celebration in Newaygo County featuring special guest Daniel Ament is available to watch on YouTube, by going to YouTube’s main page, and searching: “Daniel Ament interview” conducted with Sara Gorman. To participate in additional activities, go to www.takedowntobacco.org.
“Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is excited to collaborate with our community and support our youth, who are really the driving force behind the advocacy and activism around quitting nicotine,” Gerber Memorial Community Health Specialist Caitlin Mitchell-Schucker said. The Media Club at White Cloud High School saw this project through from start to finish with interviewing Daniel and editing the video to share out with local schools and the community. Rylee Hewitt, 12th Grade White Cloud Student and Chair of the White Cloud Media Club, said: “Thank you to the Headway Coalition for this opportunity. It has been very heartwarming in a way.”
Hewitt added: “Take Down Tobacco Day is one of many events and opportunities Gerber Memorial and organizations throughout Newaygo County participate in to share information about nicotine use and the many resources we have in this community that can help people quit. We look forward to sharing stories of inspiration, success and hope and we encourage everyone to join us on this day.”
Sara Gorman, White Cloud Media Club teacher, said: “This was such an awesome project in so many ways. I loved getting to experience our White Cloud students networking with and learning from Daniel about the harsh realities of vaping. This project addresses a major need within our student culture today: vape and tobacco education and reform. Connecting teens with local businesses and community organizations, such as Headway Coalition and Spectrum Health, while advocating for changes in our world today, is what it's all about. Very cool project!!”
Kelly Wawsczyk, the Project Assistant for Drug Free Communities with the Headway Coalition, played a central role in making this Take Down Tobacco project happen. Wawsczyk focused on engaging with youth community groups, primarily those in each local district high school.
Wawsczyk said: “During this live interview, I could see our students' faces and the impact and emotion it made. They were completely taken with what Daniel was saying. They showed amazing focus to his words and asked great questions. It is a powerful project with an impactful message.”
Ament is the world’s first double-lung transplant recipient. At the age of 16, he became severely ill from vaping and was on life-support for 29 days. He underwent double-lung transplant surgery on Oct. 15, 2019.
Today, Ament is committed to sharing his story publicly and launching a non-profit organization that will encourage young people to live a healthier and happier lifestyle and improve overall mental wellness with training for counselors, coaches and parents to provide alternatives for coping with the pressures of being a teenager void of substances. A Grosse Pointe Woods resident, Ament plans to graduate high school in spring 2021 and attend college. He has spoken nationally about the harm of nicotine use and vaping, and has appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning, America” and on CBS.
Mitchell-Schucker said vaping continues to be a problem among youth. According to the 2019-2020 Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth Survey, 23.1 percent of Newaygo County high school students reported recent use of vaping products, up from 12.7 percent in 2018.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic raising greater awareness about addressing chronic conditions and health impacts on our lungs and respiratory system, the message of Take Down Tobacco day is timely and more important than ever,” Mitchell-Schucker said. “Though this year’s activities will look different due to COVID-19, embracing our new virtual world has created an exciting opportunity for youth in our county. Students will get the chance to virtually meet with Daniel Ament, hear his story, ask him questions, and learn from his experiences.”
Spectrum Health stroke expert to share recovery tips at Gerber Memorial support group
FREMONT, Mich., March 17, 2021 – Dr. Muhib Khan, MD, a vascular neurologist at Spectrum Health, will be the featured guest speaker at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s stroke support group meeting on April 1. The free virtual event is at 3:30 p.m. and participants can join on a smartphone, computer or via phone.
To access via phone, please call 616-773-2109 and enter the ID: 420 365 095 #.
To access via computer, laptop or smartphone, click on https://bit.ly/2XbBmAb and then click on “Join on the web instead,” or call Shelly Klochack at 231-924-3275 for instructions.
Dr. Khan’s topic is “Recovery after a stroke.”
“We invite and encourage anyone who’s been affected by stroke to join our support group,” said Klochack, who facilitates Gerber Memorial’s stroke support group. “Stroke is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at the same time, we know that you can prevent strokes, treat it and recover from it. Gerber Memorial’s stroke support group is a great opportunity for people to get information, share experiences and inspiring stories, and know that they are not alone in their journeys. At Gerber Memorial, we’re pleased we can support our community, improve health and inspire hope.”
In addition to the stroke support group, Gerber Memorial also offers support groups for families and individuals affected by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Muskegon- The pandemic hasn’t reduced the need for fire safety, but it has changed the way fire departments are reaching kids.
Along with corporate sponsors State Farm, Lake-Osceola State Bank, Knotty Pine General Store, and Walmart, six West Michigan fire departments have teamed up with Wheeler Creative Studios to distribute 2,000 initial copies of Fire Safety with Woodward and Willow.
The 2,000 copies of the book (which focuses on the importance of quickly escaping a fire and staying out) are now being used by the following departments:
• Walkerville Area Fire and Rescue
• Hesperia Area Fire Department
• Newaygo Fire Department
• Shelby-Benona Fire Department
• Dalton Township Fire Department
• Oceana County Fire Training Council
“We haven’t been able to bring the kids into the station, so we needed a different way to reach them,” says Walkerville Fire Captain Brian Hintz. Hintz, who is also a Muskegon County Deputy Sheriff, became aware of the Cartoonversation program when Wheeler Creative Studios owner Tim Wheeler was delivering books on school violence to the Sheriff’s office. “I asked Tim if he had ever thought about doing children’s books on fire safety, and that’s pretty much where we started the project.” Hintz is serving as Technical Advisor for the book series.
In addition to the turnkey curriculum known as the Cartoonversation Card, as well as alignment with Michigan State Teaching Standards, the book comes with customizable escape plan worksheets to help kids and families identify the exits in their homes. Individual digital copies of the book can be purchased at cartoonversation.com. Fire departments and organizations interested in printing and distributing the books can contact Wheeler Creative Studios at 231.750.9676.
Gerber Memorial offers support beyond just awareness month
By Michelle (Shelly) Klochack, RN
April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial provides support for individuals and families facing Parkinson’s, not just in April but year-round. Every third Thursday of the month, Gerber Memorial hosts a Parkinson’s support group. The next support group meeting is Thursday, March 18. We meet from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Because we want to maximize safety, we are currently meeting remotely. We aren’t letting COVID-19 prevent us from providing care to our community, and we’re offering options for you to join, either by laptop, tablet and smartphone, or by regular phone.
As a registered nurse who has facilitated these support groups for several years, I encourage everyone affected by Parkinson’s to check out this support group.
During our support group meetings, we touch on a variety of topics. Participants drive the conversation, learning from each other and giving each other support.
We also produce a monthly newsletter with information along with educational information related to PD.
If you’d like to join the support group on March 18 virtually, copy this link onto your browser: https://bit.ly/2X5EDRC. Then click: “Join on the web instead” and the meeting will open for you! If you would like help connecting virtually, please contact me.
If you do not have a smartphone, laptop or tablet and want to call into the meeting, please dial:
Conference line # +1 616-773-2109. Then enter conference ID # 663 413 214#
Nearly one million people in the United States live with Parkinson’s, and 60,000 individuals are diagnosed each year. Parkinson’s doesn’t just affect older Americans: 4 percent of people with PD are younger than age 50.
Please know that if you’re living with Parkinson’s, you are not alone. Others are going through similar journeys, and our support group aims to bring you together to share experiences, ideas and hope.
If you would like to receive the newsletter or want more information, please contact Shelly Klochack at 231-924-3275.
The clinicians at Newaygo County Mental Health periodically contribute articles to help educate, enlighten and increase awareness of mental health issues.
Emily Derks, LMSW; Kayla McKnight LLMSW; Christina Bitson, Intern
“I thought I would have to teach my child about the world. It turns out I have to teach the world about my child. FASD is its own world.”-Anonymous
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a mental health disorder involving Prenatal Alcohol Exposure, meaning an embryo is exposed to alcohol while in the mother’s womb (American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5), 2013, p.798-801). According to the DSM-5, no amount of alcohol can determine the adverse effects of neurocognitive impairments. Children whose symptoms seem less severe are at risk to struggle more socially and academically because they have a “hidden disability” and may not readily qualify for extra support services in the school. Additionally children with unknown fetal alcohol exposure are viewed as oppositional or defiant.
The psychological dimensions of FASD are many including having hope for your child and the relationships your child will foster with your family and the community. No matter the age of your child, you are not alone when it comes to accepting the intrusion of your child’s disability and how you feel about grieving this loss. Feeling disconnected is common. It can be helpful to recognize the duality of joy and grief that is ever present from the journey that comes with parenting a child with FASD.
Your clinician should support the challenges within the parent-child relationship including potential guilt and the ups and downs that influence your bond with your child. Therapy can help provide a space to explore your child’s disability and process through the most challenging moments that you and your child are experiencing. You are not alone if your child is lacking benefit from natural consequences or reward systems to promote good behavior. It is commonly reported that children with this diagnosis never really look the same, but themes of ensuring safety, and trying to monitor the child's mood and impulsivity is constant. Children with FASD cannot be compared to children who do not have this brain damage.
Prevalence & Barriers to Diagnosis
FASD has a prevalence rate between 1.13% and 5% (1 in 88 to 1 in 20 individuals), which makes it more common than Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down Syndrome. (May et. al., 2018). Despite how common this disorder is, there are many barriers that prevent children from being properly diagnosed and treated. One such barrier is the presence of mental health stigma. Stigma is a complex social process by which a person or group of individuals are considered less acceptable due to a specific trait or behavior (Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2020). Since FASD is a “hidden disability”, often the challenges of the disorder go unnoticed and help may not be received (Green et al., 2016).
Parents of children with FASD often feel blamed for their child’s disability. Pregnant women who drink alcohol may receive stigma from health care providers. Prolonged stigma often contributes to feelings of lowered self-esteem, depression, feelings of shame, and fear of losing one’s child. Recognizing these fears, it is understandable that some individuals may not talk with health care professionals. However, not discussing your struggles often makes the problem worse. Overall, stigma may prevent individuals from receiving appropriate health care services.
The National Association on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS) (2020), states that “prenatal alcohol exposure is the nation’s leading preventable cause of developmental disabilities and birth defects”. This is good news. FASD can be prevented! Raising public awareness about the risk that prenatal exposure to alcohol has on a developing child is one way we all can help with prevention. However, the only true way to prevent FASD is for women and men to abstain from alcohol consumption before and during conception and for women to abstain throughout pregnancy.
For more information about the services provided at NCMH visit their website at
Gerber Memorial’s free March seminar to focus on preparing families for healthcare wishes
FREMONT. Mich., March 3, 2021 – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s free monthly Healthy Minds, Health Bodies seminar for March shines a spotlight educating people about expressing their healthcare wishes through preemptive planning, also known as advanced care planning sessions. The virtual seminar is on Thursday, March 11, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
With advanced care planning, individuals are better prepared to tell loved ones and health care providers what they want for their future health care needs. Advance care planning is important for people of all ages because anything can happen to anyone at any time like an accident or a stroke. Having a plan in place can help ensure that health care wishes can be known and honored in any situation.
Presenters at the March 11 seminar are Jen Eriks and Rena Ruehle, Spectrum Health senior improvements specialists, who will review the Advance Care Planning process. Eriks and Ruehle will help participants reflect on goals and values and help identify ways to make plans about current and future health care. The seminar is open to all community members.
To register, call 231.924.3073, and get information on how to connect via mobile device or computer.
The Fremont Area District Library is currently open for service (no appointment needed!) and still offers curbside service. Information about the library’s current opening guidelines, along with using curbside service can be found at www.fremontlibrary.net. Masks are required inside the library with the exception of children ages 5 and under.
We have also expanded our open hours! Our new hours are:
Mon, Tue, Thurs 9:30-8:30
Wed. & Fri. 9:30-5:00
And just a reminder to adults and teens--remember to turn in your reading logs and/or snowflakes for our adult and teen winter reading challenges by March 20th!