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Stateside: Assessing mental health in Michigan

Developers used tax credits to redevelop a former mental hospital in Traverse City
Developers used tax credits to redevelop a former mental hospital in Traverse City

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Today we looked at Michigan's treatment of mental health.

Milton Mack, Chief Judge of Michigan County Probate Court, and Dr. Michele Reid, Medical Director of Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency, spoke with Cyndy about the ways we treat mental health.

“I see case after case of people who didn’t get timely treatment. We have a mental health model in Michigan which is based on inpatient, but we live in an outpatient world….Today we know that early intervention helps people survive,” said Mack.

“Over the last 20 years there has been an expansion in the budget for mental health,” said Reid.

“The primary institution for the mentally ill today is prison--by a ratio of nearly 7:1. I submit that a lot of that is because we cannot intervene early. The standard for intervention by the courts is very high. In order for me to order treatment for somebody who’s mentally ill, they have to be in extreme danger of immediate harm. On the other hand, for all other illnesses in Michigan, all you have to do is show the person is incapacitated…” said Mack.

“No one in the mental health system would say that we disagree with the need to get early treatment. But what I’m saying is that it needs to be a two-pronged approach…We need a downstream approach and an upstream approach…” said Reid.

People should not be forced to look only for mental health treatment in jail, said Mack.

“It’s a societal issue. People who have mental disorders are not treated the same way with insurance…I think with the health care reform that is coming; it will provide increased access to mental health services,” said Reid.

Reid and Mack proposed that mental illnesses be viewed as other physical illnesses.

Reid then addressed the ways to reform the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“One of the best ways I see to fight stigma is working with what we call peer support specialists. These are children and adults who have mental disorders who have recovered and are part of our system. The easiest way to combat stigma is to have consumers, family members and advocates more actively involved,” said Reid.

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