Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 10, 2014

Mental health services face new round of cuts

Back in the late 1980s the state of Michigan closed virtually all of its state-run psychiatric hospitals, including the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Center, now generally known as the Grand Traverse Commons.

It was a controversial move that was, despite concerns that many individuals would fall between the cracks, widely supported by mental health professionals who had long objected to the “warehousing” of those in need. The aim was to create a system of community-based care that provided treatment tailored to the needs of individuals while allowing them to live in their communities, hold jobs and live “normal” lives outside a hospital.

Like so many government undertakings, however, the system fell far short of what had been promised. Many hospital-based acute care psychiatric wings that had been promised never materialized, and many of those who needed acute services ended up in jail or prison instead of a hospital.

And almost immediately state funding for community based programs fell far short of what had been promised or was needed. From that day forward, Community Mental Health organizations have lived hand-to-mouth.

And here we are again.

Starting Tuesday, when the state’s Healthy Michigan Medicaid expansion plan went into effect, Community Mental Health programs in the Grand Traverse area stood to lose millions of dollars in state funding. CMH organizations across the state were to lose roughly 54 percent of their state-funded general purpose money. While many of those served will be picked up by Medicaid, not everyone will qualify. And services to those who do qualify may be curtailed because Medicaid funding doesn’t allow for the kind of flexibility — including combining funding from multiple sources — CMH organizations have become so adept at using.

The aim of the Healthy Michigan Plan makes sense to the state, but will cause problems.

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