On March 2nd, the newly formed House Subcommittee on Behavioral Health held its first meeting. The subcommittee did not take up any bills but had presentations from Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) including the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, and West Michigan Community Mental Health.
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This newly formed behavioral health subcommittee consists of 11 Representatives, seven Democrats, and four Republicans. It’s chaired by Rep. Felicia Brabec (D – Ann Arbor), who is a practicing clinical psychologist with a master’s degree in clinical social work.
Brabec led the meeting and focused on two main issues: the behavioral health workforce shortage and access to mental healthcare.
Alan Bolter, associate director from the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, spoke to the subcommittee regarding what Michigan’s public mental healthcare system looks like, who they serve, what they do, and what their CCBHCs are doing across the state of Michigan.
“I would categorize three areas of concern … which would be access to care, workforce, and inpatient needs,” Bolter said. “Those are the absolute critical areas out there.”
Bolter stated that Michigan’s constitution specifies that the state is required to serve individuals with a severe mental illness or disability regardless of their ability to pay, and that an individual cannot be denied a service that is medically necessary because of an inability to pay or lack of insurance. Bolter explained that the state has passed this authority on to lower levels of government, which include the county governments of Michigan.
Bolter said the community mental health service structure consists of 46 community mental health service programs and 10 Medicaid prepaid inpatient health plans in the state. He noted that Michigan is the only state that serves four main population groups in a managed care setting. These groups are children with serious emotional disturbances or disorders, individuals with substance use disorders, individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities, and adults with mental illnesses.
“Typically, the stat that is thrown out there is that one out of five individuals are suffering from some form of mental illness,” Bolter said. “So, if you do the math, in the state of Michigan, if we have roughly ten million people, you’re talking about two million people across the state of Michigan alone. Again, our public mental health system is responsible for a small portion of that.”
Trish Cortes, executive director of Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, and Lisa Williams, executive director of West Michigan Community Mental Health, spoke together regarding how CCBHCs have transformed their communities and how the model can address mental health issues across the state.
Williams and Cortes spoke to the committee about the positive outcomes of CCBHCs in Michigan, which stem from enhanced coordination of care, having a 24-hour mobile crisis hotline, access to telehealth, having a workforce that is ready to provide services, and enhanced relationships with primary care providers.
Williams and Cortes stated that CCBHCs are the solution to larger system challenges for Michigan.
“The amount of folks coming in our doors with substance abuse diagnosis and disorders with significant needs for treatment and desire for treatment, who previously did not have access in our communities, is really significant and has gone up dramatically during the pandemic,” Cortes said. “The ability to offer that whole-person care with those substance abuse issues, diagnosis, and disorders has been really significant.”
Williams spoke about how CCBHCs are key to long-term improved access to high quality children services, which include improved access, consistency in benefits, compliance and standardized data collection and reporting, and improved transparency.
“Based on the impact [CCBHCs] have made in our communities, there is no walking this back, and I cannot stress this enough,” Cortes said.