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En route to Mackinac Policy Conference, billboards warn against selling out mental health care

Tom Watkins
No one knows who created the billboards or who is funding them, but mental health advocates are happy to see them along I-75.

“Legislators… NOT FOR SALE: My Mental Health Care.”

So says a series of billboards that have popped up along I-75. The billboards, which also feature a couple and their young daughter, are targeted at state legislators who will be driving up north this weekend for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

No one seems to know who is funding the billboards, but mental health advocates are supportive of the strategy. The ad campaign seems to oppose a state plan supported by the Governor and some Republican lawmakers to integrate Medicaid services for physical and mental health by handing over funds to private HMOs.

Click here to read about how lawmakers are being pressed to hand over control of mental health services.

Dohn Hoyle is the director of Public Policy of The Arc Michigan. He praised the anonymous backers of the billboards, calling the strategy “brilliant.”

“I think they’re just wonderful. And well done to whoever had the money to bring them to fruition,” he said.

The question of how to best overhaul mental health services in Michigan has been circulating since early 2016, when Gov. Snyder proposed to allow private insurance companies to manage the $2.5 billion in Medicaid funding set aside for mental health care. Snyder says this would successfully bring together physical and mental health services, improve outcomes, and cut administrative costs.

Opponents of the plan object to public funds and care for vulnerable people being handled by for-profit organizations, and that access to treatment and medication would be limited.

The Mackinac Policy Conference expects over 1,600 people from across the state, including various business leaders and local, state and federal officials.

Many of the attendees will see the billboards as they drive up I-75. Mental health advocates hope that the billboards will help influence policy discussions at the conference.

Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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