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Washtenaw County Community Mental Health announces service expansion

Looking down on a hand holding an open bottle of prescription drugs.
Sharyn Morrow
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Washtenaw County Community Mental Health is about to expand its mental health and substance abuse services. 

Starting May 1, a WCCMH team will offer ongoing treatment services to any county resident who is unable to  find a community provider in a timely manner. That's regardless of their insurance type or ability to pay for services.

"This will be a team that can respond to a crisis," said Trish Cortes, executive director of WCCMH. "And not only just respond to the crisis, but also help stabilize individuals until we can get them an appropriate provider."

Previously, WCCMH provided ongoing treatment only to residents with Medicaid coverage due to budgetary constraints.

"Now we're able to extend our full service array to those individuals who either don't have a form of insurance at all or whose private insurance doesn't provide the level of services that they need," said Kelly Bellus, clinical director of WCCMH.

Bellus said this will reduce inpatient hospitalizations, repeat ER visits, and incarceration.

"If we can intervene with them earlier and help them have their needs met, then we can prevent some of those things," said Bellus.

Bellus said even when clients have health insurance, they can face waitlists and delays in accessing an authorized provider. And she said health insurance doesn't cover many needed case management services like help wth getting housing or transportation.

The kinds of treatment services WCCMH says it will be able to provide include individual and group counseling, medication prescription and management services, peer support services, substance abuse recovery and support services, and veteran support services.

Cortes said the expansion is possible because of mental health millage dollars that first became available in January.

In November 2017, Washtenaw County residents voted two to one in favor of an eight year Community Mental Health and Public Safety Preservation Millage.

Cortes said the mental health portion of the millage is expected to generate about $6 million each year.

Since January 2019, WCCMH has hired and trained a number of new staff members so they'll be ready for the service expansion. Cortes said she expects the number to be 20-25 by May. The new staff will make up an interdiscplinary team with expertise in nursing, social work, crisis services, psychiatry, peer counseling, and addiction treatment.

Satellite sites in Western Washtenaw County and Whitmore Lake are expected to be added through the year to the existing offices in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

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