91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dramatic expansion coming for program that helps seriously mentally ill in northern Michigan


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is making a $500,000 grant to expand two pilot projects in northern Michigan.

The program is called the "Behavioral Health Home" initiative. It offers wrap-around services with a team approach to treat both mental and physical health care needs for Medicaid patients with serious mental illness or serious emotional disturbance.

"Basically, it's putting everything together, their physical health, their behavioral health, all in one service provider group," says Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for MDHHS. "Everybody's working together - making sure that everything's being addressed for this individual."

Karl Kovacs is CEO of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority, which runs one of the pilots.  He says the program has been very successful, and has resulted in some dramatic stories, such as doctors discovering cancer in a seriously mentally ill man who hadn't seen a primary care physician in a very long time. The man was successfully treated for the cancer.  

"People with serious mental illness have, for a variety of reasons, not always been able to have sustained primary care," says Kovacs. "They're not always the easiest people to work with and treat, so it takes extra effort and time to determine, is he following through on his appointments, is he following through on his diabetes, his seizures? Is his medication from the psychiatrist being well coordinated with his physical health care providers?"

The $500,000 grant could boost the number of people served from about 160, to several thousand.
The expansion will be in northern Michigan counties, where access to both primary and mental health care can be more difficult.

The money for the grant comes from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund. The fund was created through Public Act 4 of 2013, which authorized certain changes on how Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) operates. The law requires BCBSM to contribute up to $1.56 billion over 18 years to a health endowment fund that benefits Michigan residents.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.