Dates: October 8 - 11, 2013
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

The 11th Annual Conference Story

Exceptionally beautiful weather greeted 270 attendees as they arrived in Grand Rapids for the 11th Annual NAME Conference and saw the splendor of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel for the first time. The amazing variety of art from ArtPrize was still on display everywhere one looked, including many pieces of art in the hotel.

Tuesday, no longer a pre-Conference day, brought 125 people to the Conference Overview and Orientation, featuring a brief presentation by the hotel Historian. Many stayed for the Introduction to Medicaid and Education: The Academy while others walked to the other wing of the hotel for concurrent Nugget sessions. After enjoying some Hors d’ oeuvres, attendance was high at the three Regional Town Hall meetings that evening, providing an opportunity for colleagues from around the country to reconnect, share news of the past year and network with others from their geographic regions. Nine wonderful companies or agencies were Sponsors of the 2013 Conference providing substantial financial support to keep attendee costs low:

Gold Sponsors: Fairbanks, LLC and PCG Education

Silver Plus Sponsor: UMass Medical School Center for Health Care Financing

Silver Sponsors: Sivic Solutions Group, Veritam, CompuClaim and Paradigm Healthcare

Bronze Sponsors: Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education and MJ Care

Federal Government Shutdown

With the federal government shutdown in its second week, the Conference planning committee was thankful they knew months prior that NAME's federal partners from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would not be able to travel and attend, due to sequestration and budget cuts. There were other organizations around the country whose conferences had set aside blocks of time for federal partners’ presentations, and they found themselves scrambling to fill those time slots with other sessions. Over the course of the week there were over thirty educational sessions for attendees to absorb a wide variety of topics.

More Conference Re-Cap

Wednesday was an emotional day for most attendees. By the time lunch was over, we remembered a dear NAME friend who died in May; saw the tender gestures of two appreciative students; were swinging and swaying to the joyful songs of a choir of special education high school students; and heard the horrific statistics of child abuse that occurs in one small part of Southeast Michigan.

Wednesday was a "Wear Pink" day that started early-at 7am-with the First Annual Anysia Drumheller Memorial Scholarship Fun Run/Walk/Roll. The Opening Keynote address was then delivered by Michigan Department of Community Health Director James K. Haveman, who reminded the group that politicians can do the right thing and expand Medicaid coverage under good leadership. The final presentation of Wednesday morning showcased the Michigan Medicaid School Based Services Program with a panel discussion.

The afternoon provided attendees with choices of ten Nugget and breakout sessions on a wide variety of topics.

Thursday began with federal updates by our partners from the National Association of Directors of Special Education, American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Administrators of Special Education and the National Association of Medicaid Directors. The popular "fireside chat" format provided these experts to share their knowledge and insight into what has been happening in Washington, D.C., on issues, legislation and decisions affecting Medicaid and Education.

Thursday afternoon ended with the Closing Keynote presentation by Michigan's Director of the Office of Special Education, Eleanor E. White, Ph.D., who provided an enthusiastic, musical, visual and relevant message reflecting on the challenges everyone in this unique field faces: trying to balance the complexities of Medicaid and Special Education with dwindling resources. Her "Good Public Service" metaphor tied in with the Great Lakes theme of the Conference and left many thankful and proud for the work we do.

Social Events a Success

The planning committee provided very little free time for attendees, but on Thursday evening there were two more organized social events and each was a success. Over 20 teams shuttled on the Grand Rapids Hopper bus (and literally ran) around downtown seeking answers to the clues for the Dine, Dash and Discover scavenger hunt. They received their packets Wednesday morning and had a 10:30pm Thursday deadline to turn in answers. Competition was fierce and five teams tied for the victory with perfect scores! Another group of 60 were bused 30 minutes to the west to Grand Haven where they saw a picture-perfect sunset over Lake Michigan from the Grand Haven lighthouse breakwater. They then headed downtown less than a mile away for a tasty dinner at the Kirby House or the nearby restaurant of their choice.

New NAME President, Board

Friday provided a final opportunity for members to gather with their Regions and discuss their reflections of the week and what issues they believed NAME should emphasize in the coming year. New President Mark Smith (OH) was installed, as were other elected officers and Directors to the Board of Directors. The "call to Niagara Falls New York" was enthusiastic, and emphasized with information provided by representatives of the host hotel and convention center to all in attendance.

Evaluations Assist Conference Planners

The NAME 2013 Conference planning committee is deeply grateful to those who sacrificed their time off work to attend. Next year's Conference will study the results of the evaluations to plan a bigger and better event. Remember: it is never too early to begin the process of securing approval to travel to the 2014 NAME Conference-we think it will be worth your efforts!

  • Anysia Drumheller Scholarship 5 K Fun Run