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Michigan increases commitment to mental health and wellness by supporting independence and self-determination

Bipartisan panel recommends comprehensive changes

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan can increase its commitment to mental health and wellness, improving access to help and eliminating the stigma that is often becomes a barrier to people getting the assistance they need, according to a bipartisan panel of state leaders.

The Mental Health and Wellness Commission’s ground-breaking report “Improving the Quality of Life by Supporting Independence and Self-Determination” offers comprehensive changes to the way Michiganders look at and treat mental health, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders.

Gov. Rick Snyder created the commission through an executive order in February 2013, charging it with developing recommendations to strengthen and improve the state’s system of support and delivery of services.

Snyder also issued an executive order creating the state’s Mental Health Diversion Council, charged with creating a plan to divert people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders from the criminal justice system and to appropriate treatment.

Headed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, the commission included state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor; state Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale; state Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine; state Rep. Phil Cavanagh, D-Redford Township; and James Haveman, the director of the Michigan Department of Community Health who co-chaired the group.

“These bipartisan recommendations are the first steps of a long-term plan intended to increase independence, promote self-determination and improve the quality of life for Michiganders affected by mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders,” Calley said.

“Each of us knows someone affected by these struggles. I’m optimistic that we can do better by renewing our commitment to mental health and wellness, treating people with the respect and dignity they deserve, and improving the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable Michiganders.”

The commission offers nearly 60 unanimously agreed upon recommendations for changes, focused around the ideas of removing barriers, eliminating the stigma, streamlining procedures to assist healthcare providers and governments and helping our most vulnerable residents.

“After months of feedback from communities across Michigan, I firmly believe that this report is a strong step forward for our residents,” Haveman said.

“The recommendations in this report go a long way to address gaps, update outdated policies and systems, and reduce the stigmas associated with living with mental illness in Michigan. The Michigan Department of Community Health is eager to get started on implementing the recommendations in this report and making Michigan a better place for all residents.”

Included are suggestions for improving access to care and housing, recognizing that thousands of Michigan’s homeless have mental illnesses, developmental disabilities or substance use disorders. Recommendations include state agencies working together with the private sector to provide 500 new housing units during the next three years.

The report recognizes that Michigan is home to nearly 700,000 veterans, with more than 45,000 serving abroad in recent wars, many returning with injuries seen and unseen. The report calls for a “no wrong door” policy so veterans get the care they need through a variety of sources.

There is help available for children, and detecting and diagnosing mental illness and developmental disabilities early in life are essential to maximizing the benefits of available treatment. Michigan will coordinate efforts among agencies and set higher outcomes to assist our youngest Michiganders.

The commission also states that stigma associated with mental illness can be a primary deterrent to seeking care, affecting how people are perceived at home and in the workplace. Recommendations include eradicating the phrase “mental retardation” from Michigan law, developing a Pure Michigan marketing strategy to highlight opportunities for families living with disabilities and campaigns focusing on personal stories and community outreach.

“After spending nearly a year learning from the first-hand experiences of Michigan families and working with mental health professionals to identify ways to improve care in our communities, I am confident the recommendations my fellow commissioners and I have presented today provide us with an important set of first steps toward expanding access to mental health services and enhancing quality of life for countless citizens,” Warren said.

The commission conducted hearings in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Marquette, Detroit and Sanilac.

“I appreciate the hard work of the mental health commission over the past year,” Caswell said.  I look forward to working on legislation that will improve care for the developmentally disabled, mentally impaired, and mentally ill.”

Lori said his work on the commission was “an exceptional experience.”

“The report is a great place to start on reforms for the treatment and care of those facing mental health issues,” he said. “Reducing the number of people with mental illness and developmental disabilities from entering the criminal justice system is a priority for me.  I look forward to the Commission’s work as we move ahead.”

Cavanagh said he looks forward to a leadership role in moving the recommendations through the Legislature.

“It was a lot of work but Michigan is on the cusp of some real reforms in the way we look at and treat our mentally and physically handicapped citizens,” he said. “It was said early on that this report wasn't just going on a shelf somewhere, but would be a plan for action.”

 The full report is available at: