HOUGHTON – In a recent press release, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said: “I, Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan, hereby proclaim May 2021 Michigan Mental Health Awareness Month.”
In his 12-point proclamation, the governor went on to say that “All individuals can go through difficult and stressed times in their lives and should feel comfortable asking for help and support to manage these times.”
She also said the various challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, including isolation, loss of income, fear and bereavement, have significantly contributed to declining mental health levels among children, adolescents. and adults in our state. In most state documents, there is noticeable language that interchangeably uses behavioral health and mental health.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Mental Health Services Guide to Open Counseling, anyone in Michigan who has Medicaid, or who qualifies for Medicaid, is eligible for public mental health services as long as those services are available. medically necessary. Services are considered medically necessary when a person has a mental health problem that impacts their well-being and that condition will not improve without treatment. Medicaid covers counseling for mild to moderate mental health problems as well as intensive services for severe mental illness.
The MDHHS website also indicates that Public Law 102-321 establishes the federal block grant for mental health services. This federal funding program is administered by the Center for Mental Health Services, a division of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Each year, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services applies for a scholarship under this program and currently receives an annual grant of approximately $ 13 million. Of this amount, approximately $ 4 million is allocated for mental health services for children with severe emotional disorders and their families.
Federal law establishing this program requires that the funds be spent through the state’s public mental health system. Through individual block grant contracts with community mental health service programs, these resources are focused on developing and sustaining community services. For children, the block grant is primarily used to support services that help build the system of care for children with ADS and their families.
The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has contracted with Altarum to study access to behavioral health care in Michigan. The final report documents the methods and results of analyzes to characterize current access to treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders in the state, describes barriers to care, and identifies potential strategies to improve access. The Altarum report was released in July 2019 and found that more than 650,000 Michigan residents with mental illness and more than 500,000 with substance use disorder are not receiving treatment. That is, 38% of residents have a mental illness and 80% of those with a substance use disorder.
The report also found that the populations with the highest number of people untreated for mental illness include: the uninsured (65%) and those enrolled in Medicaid (49%), while the populations with the highest proportion of people not treated for a substance use disorder. include private policyholders (87%) and Medicare Advantage registrants (79%). The report is not isolated.
In April 2019, the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan (CMHAM) also released an analysis, “Systemic underfunding of Michigan’s public mental health system”, who studied the long-standing underfunding of Michigan’s public mental health system. This study found that over the past several years, up to 2019, a number of Michigan state funding decisions had systematically eroded the ability of Michigan’s public mental health system to meet the needs of residents of Michigan. Michigan who have come to rely on the system. while similarly eroding the fiscal stability of this public system.
Since 1997, Michigan has been the only state in the country to have a publicly managed system of care for the four major behavioral health populations, regardless of their income level (adults with mental illness, children and adolescents with emotional disorders, people with intellectual / developmental disabilities and those with substance use disorders), who reach:
– Around 300,000 people with mental health needs
– 50,000 people employed by the public mental health system
– 2 million people statewide who are reached by one of the 300,000 people served (family, friends, neighbors and colleagues).
The Washtenaw County website says that in addition to new demands for services, the state has failed to comply with the federal requirement for state support for the development of risk reserves – a key element in the design of any managed care system, especially one that is designed to serve the most vulnerable residents and maintain community safety nets.
“Lawmakers and community members can say that the public system is working well despite funding gaps,” indicates the website, “But CMHAM warns that the currently underfunded system is not sustainable in the long term.”