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Michigan's mental health community dissaproves of initiative to privatize

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Michigan's Legislature and the mental health community in the state are at odds over how best to provide and manage services.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a draft set of recommendations to the Legislature about Governor Snyder's Section 298 proposal that would effectively privatize mental health services.

The report says the mental health community in Michigan opposes Section 298. Here is a link to the MDHHS report. 

Mark Reinstein, the CEO of The Mental Health Association in Michigan, believes the report is “somewhat of a rejection of the governor's proposal.”

Reinstein said that several people from the mental health community in Michigan suggest doing things how they are currently being done, but looking for ways to improve if necessary.

“Stay the course as we know it and work on improving service coordination at the points where services are delivered,” Reinstein said, “which is the best way to coordinate services, not at the level of ‘well who holds the money and who holds the management responsibility.’”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, there are 300,000 individuals who have documented cases of mental illness living in Michigan.

Here are more statistics on mental health from NAMI:

  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.
  • 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year. 
  • Just over half (50.6%) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays — sometimes decades — between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help. 

Kevin Fischer, the Executive Director for NAMI, said the Section 298 initiative was about saving money, not helping people.

“At the end of the day, you see a bottom line that supposedly shows you savings, but it never shows you what it did to the people to achieve it,” Fischer said.

Fischer compared this initiative’s desire to save money the state’s push to privatize food providers in prisons, and with the Grand Rapids Veteran Affairs. He says neither effort worked as hoped.

The draft report is open for public comment and review until January 4. Then the MDHHS will have 11 days to submit the revises report to state Legislature. 

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