Michigan House reports findings from mental health task force

Categories: Leonard News,News

Speaker: Fixing mental health system is a top priority in 2018

House Speaker Tom Leonard, alongside a bipartisan group of state representatives, today unveiled recommendations to make significant improvements to Michigan’s broken mental health system.

From July to October, the bipartisan House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force, co-chaired by state Reps. Hank Vaupel and Klint Kesto, held public meetings and site visits across Michigan, reviewing areas where vulnerable residents are lacking in care and resources and collecting feedback to learn how best to deliver meaningful solutions. In particular, the panel focused on five key elements: Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety (C.A.R.E.S.).

“Throughout my entire career, I have observed the flaws in our current mental health programs and the harmful consequences this broken system has on vulnerable Michigan families,” said Leonard, of DeWitt. “I created the House C.A.R.E.S. task force last year to begin a long overdue conversation about how best to deliver help to the vulnerable people who need it. After five months of hard work, the task force has put forth many solid recommendations. Improving mental health care in Michigan is one of my top priorities, and I’m looking forward to putting these recommendations into action in the coming months.”

Vaupel, R-Fowlerville, said one of the main problems identified by the task force is a lack of access to mental health services.

“Many local communities are underserved – they don’t have psych wards or crisis centers, or there aren’t any mental health providers in the area,” said Vaupel, who also chairs the House Health Policy Committee. “We’ve come up with solutions to eliminate barriers and increase access, including a statewide crisis hotline to connect people in need with local services. We’re also exploring incentives that encourage hospitals to create and expand psych wards and help drive professionals to work in underserved areas.”

Kesto, who also chairs the House Law and Justice Committee, said the recommendations put forth in the report will improve care in Michigan’s criminal justice system, including improved training for first responders, better services to victims, enhanced court and diversion programs, and additional treatment during and after incarceration.

“We went into this process determined to come up with real reforms, not just rhetoric,” said Kesto, R-Commerce Township. “I have to say I’m pleased with the results so far. We’ve developed some cutting-edge ideas that will allow our state to be smarter on crime without increasing the burden on taxpayers.”

State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, a member of the task force with a master’s degree in health policy and professional experience in the health care field, highlighted the thorough approach the task force took in its work. From a range of expert testimony to tours of various health care and law enforcement facilities, the task force gained a wealth of information and perspectives to inform proposed solutions.

“I’m proud of the hard work we put into this task force, taking a bipartisan approach to issues that affect people in every corner of Michigan,” said Hammoud, D-Dearborn. “I look forward to legislation that will begin to address critical mental health and substance use issues across our state.”

The House C.A.R.E.S. report will not only serve as a blueprint for policy changes and legislation to be introduced in the next several months, but also establish a framework to further enhance mental health services in the future.

The full report is available to review at www.house.mi.gov/CARES.