The statistics are distressing: Hundreds of thousands of people in Michigan live with mental health conditions and the majority don’t receive any form of treatment.
As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to recognize the importance of removing the stigma behind mental illness and creating an atmosphere where people who are struggling feel comfortable seeking treatment and talking about their condition. We must also do more to improve access to services, especially for residents of rural areas.
That’s why I am thrilled with a plan taking shape in the House to fill the gaps in Michigan’s mental health care system.
Last year, the House’s bipartisan mental health task force spent five months taking part in public meetings and site visits across the state. Mental health experts suggested several ways we can help vulnerable Michigan residents, including ideas to eliminate barriers and improve access for residents of rural areas, provide better support for veterans and offer additional substance abuse treatment programing.
The task force – named C.A.R.E.S. for five key elements it focused on: community, access, resources, education and safety – issued a report in January detailing its findings and we got right to work on legislation to address the problems brought forth by real people, officials and organizations impacted by mental health care in Michigan.
I recently voted to approve several solutions recommended by the task force to make meaningful mental health reforms that benefit Michigan families.
Among them, House Bill 5439 establishes a state database containing information about the number and location of beds available for Michigan residents who need psychiatric care. People facing mental health crises – especially those in rural areas – are too often unable to receive immediate treatment due to a shortage of psychiatric care beds. With the information in the database, local providers will be able to connect people with the right resources to get the help they desperately need before it’s too late.
Another legislative solution I co-sponsored provides a financial incentive to encourage Michigan counties to establish and maintain veteran service offices. Investing in our county veteran services departments will help ensure veterans have access to the mental health services to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues such as alcohol and drug addiction that often occur following combat. We owe it to our veterans to make sure no one falls through the cracks.
I’m also happy to report that the Legislature took a number of steps last year to address the opioid epidemic. This includes passing legislation to increase education about opioids in schools, require parental consent for all controlled-substance prescriptions for minors, ensure prescribers utilize the Michigan Automated Prescription System to vet patients before prescribing opioids, and allow pharmacists to use their judgement to reject prescriptions they do not believe were written in good faith. I fully supported these solutions.
While these bills are a great start, more reforms to better our mental health system will be addressed in the coming months. I look forward to supporting measures to improve the mental health outlook for families across Michigan.
State Rep. Pamela Hornberger of Chesterfield Township is serving her first term representing portions of Macomb and St. Clair counties in the Michigan House. Prior to taking office, Rep. Hornberger spent 23 years teaching in the East China School District and also served as a trustee for the L’Anse Creuse Public Schools Board of Education.