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Class action lawsuit argues state isn’t doing enough to help children with mental health issues


Where do you go, to whom do you turn if your child needs mental health care? Child psychiatrists and parents agree: the options in Michigan are too few and far between.

This issue has led to a class action lawsuit against the state's Department of Health and Human Services. It was filed in 2018 against then-Governor Snyder, and it alleges the state has failed to meet its legal obligation under Medicaid to provide adequate services for children who have behavioral and mental health problems.

Earlier this month, federal judge Thomas Ludington ruled the lawsuit may proceed towards trial.

Former state senator and state representative David Honigman is the lead attorney in the case, and a partner at the law firm Mantese Honigman, PC.

Federal law entitles people with disabilities and mental or physical illnesses to have their medical treatment paid for by the state. Honigman says the state is falling short on that legal responsibility. 

“There’s a lack of political responsiveness to the needs of the vulnerable,” Honigman said. 

Honigman says this has major consequences for kids. He describes one of the seven cases in their lawsuit: a non-verbal 20-year-old boy who has has autism, intellectual disabilities, and cerebral palsy. For years, his mother had been requesting mental health services and medical attention for him. Honigman says that her son didn't receive services until he was 17, and when he did, only minimal services were offered to treat his autism. 

“It’s easier to build a strong child than it is to repair a broken man or woman. That’s why the Medicaid law emphasizes early intervention to address the mental and physical health of our nation’s children,” Honigman said.

We reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for comment and were provided this statement:

"We cannot comment on ongoing litigation, however, MDHHS is committed to working with partners to address mental health needs in Michigan."

Stateside's request to discuss the state's mental health system for children, more broadly, and what the department is doing to improve it, was declined. 

This post was written by Stateside production assistant Katie Raymond.

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