Michigan moves to fund mental health like physical...

Michigan moves to fund mental health like physical health

"We haven't been funding mental health and addiction treatment as health care for too long."

Credit: pikisuperstar via www.freepik.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Starting this month, 13 mental health and addiction clinics across Michigan will receive the same Medicaid funding as any other health center in an effort U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow says will help bridge the stigmatic and funding divide between mental and physical health.

The selected Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, which meet high standards of care for those in need of mental health and addiction services, will now be fully reimbursed by Medicaid, the same as other health care services, instead of relying on grants to supplement costs.

Stabenow, who has led efforts to set standards for these clinics and now fund them the same as other health services gave her perspective on the state of funding for mental health services in the U.S. during a news conference Wednesday.

“We haven’t been funding mental health and addiction treatment as health care for too long,” Stabenow said. “We’ve said, ‘Health care above the neck is treated differently than health care below the neck.'”

There are 33 CCBHC’s in Michigan providing 24-hours-a-day crisis services. Stabenow hopes that eventually all the clinics will get Medicaid reimbursement.

People who end up not being able to access help early on in addiction or a mental health crisis often end up utilizing clinic crisis services, said Sara Lurie, CEO of Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton, Ingham counties. CCBHCs often coordinate with emergency rooms, veteran services and local law enforcement to ensure that mental health care is provided to those who need it most.

Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, annually serves about 7,900 people, CEO Jeff Patton said, but with the help of full Medicaid funding, he expects the clinic to provide services to 9,000 in the next year.

“Mental health is always, always being talked about, but very little is done to fund it,” Patton said. “It has been my hope since this started, is that this becomes more than a demonstration, it becomes a permanent arrangement.”

The clinic will be able to get reimbursement for things like transportation services, which it didn’t qualify for previously. This allows the clinic, which doesn’t deny services to anyone, to connect people to the resources they need.

Lurie said her authority serves about 12,000 people annually and has expanded staff and services to the needs of community in recent years thanks to grants. Now with Medicaid reimbursement the clinic can maintain services to what’s necessary without being limited by grants.

“I do think it will make a difference,” Lurie said. “Right now the sights are limited. There’ll be a lot of learning and I hope it will expand fully to the state as well and be sustained.”

Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.