We’ve heard Michigan’s mental health care compared to a poorly maintained road.
Potholes. Crumbling shoulders. Travel at your peril.
But it’s also the only road we’ve got. And we’re traveling at night with one headlight and three wheels.
Our fractured system leaves many by the side of the road. More still are refusing to travel at all.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 4.5 percent of adults in Michigan have serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.
Staggering numbers of people in our state also go untreated, Bridge Magazine reported this summer.
A Michigan Health Endowment Fund-ed study found that nearly 670,000 residents with mental illness — 38 percent — did not receive treatment.
It’s no wonder; our state lacks people to treat them, especially in rural counties and the Upper Peninsula. Statewide, the average ratio is 400 people to one medical health professional. In Grand Traverse County, we do even better than that — with 378 pros who work here — this means there is one mental health pro per 240 people.
Then we do worse than average:
There are 10 pros in Leelanau County; its ratio is 2,170:1.
In Kalkaska County, seven; 2,520:1.
In Antrim County, eight; 2,910:1.
Because of this, we were heartened by recent news that kept an estimated 10,000 licensed professional counselors in these rankings.
It was a close shave; earlier this year, the department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced LPCs would soon no longer be able to use “counseling techniques” with clients or “diagnose and identify the problem,” severely limiting the scope of care they could legally provide. It meant LPCs could not provide mental health counseling or bill for insurance reimbursement, putting their jobs, and the care patients were receiving, in jeopardy, according to Munson Healthcare representatives Gabe Schneider, government relations, and Terry LaCroix-Kelty, behavioral health.
LPC-advocacy groups said that this could adversely impact 150,000 mental health patients statewide, and protests were swift and effective. Our Legislature upended the proposed change, effectively deputizing LPCs in our uphill battle.
We don’t deny the intention and long-term effort behind the move to maintain consistent standards across the profession; we also can appreciate LARA’s work in rooting out unethical professional practices.
But the realities of our situation are dire, and we need as many hands as possible to help us on the bumpy road ahead.