Gina Aranki (copy)

Aranki

There has been a great deal of media coverage of mental health issues of late — the numbers of people of all ages who are increasingly seeking services but not finding them, how the labor shortage is affecting the system being able to provide those services, many people incarcerated because of mental illness and substance abuse, the need to provide medical, behavioral/mental health and substance abuse services in one place. These issues are also touched directly by a lack of affordable housing and childcare in our region and other factors.

The local statistics are troubling. A recent study showed that 38 percent of incarcerated people in Grand Traverse County are severely mentally ill, with 80 percent having co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse. Meanwhile, some children have waited a week or longer in a hospital ER until a psychiatric inpatient placement could be found downstate. The number of children meeting criteria for Severely Emotionally Disturbed (SED) has been steadily increasing since 2016. In all of 2018 there were 34 children within the region of Crawford, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Missaukee, Roscommon and Wexford counties who were admitted to an inpatient psychiatric children’s unit. Only three years later, 39 children were admitted in one quarter (the months of July through September 2021).

Fortunately, people are coming together to focus on solutions. Grass roots organizations are working side by side with Munson Healthcare, community mental health, law enforcement and others to help make the existing system more responsive and to make deep and lasting enhancements where they are needed. Currently, we have a 24/7 crisis hotline/call center (833-295-0616) so people have someone to talk to. We also have mobile crisis teams for those who need support in the community (same number). What we desperately need now is a crisis stabilization center for adults and children needing immediate and short-term care and a plan for continued services. Several efforts are underway to establish a crisis stabilization center here in northwest Michigan.

Meanwhile, there is a role for all of us to play in building a healthier community.

We can help give families the tools they need to maintain a healthy home life, keep their children safe and overcome mental health challenges and trauma.

At the legislative level, we can advocate with decisionmakers for these community-based tools. At a basic needs level, we can offer to babysit, provide a meal, or grocery shop for a family that is stressed. We can give people peer support, when we have already walked a path that others find themselves struggling with currently.

To learn more about current issues around mental health and how you can help, contact our local National Alliance on Mental Illness (231-944-8448); Before, During, and After Incarceration (bdaiconnect.org); Child and Family Services (cfsnwmi.org); Northern Lakes Community Mental Health (northernlakescmh.org) or the Michigan State Police Angel Program (michigan.gov).

About the authors: Gina Aranki is the executive director of Child and Family Services. Nancy Stevenson is the community crisis director for Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. They work with the grassroots Community Crisis Assistance Team (CCAT) to improve the continuum of care for those with mental health and/or substance use disorders in the Grand Traverse area.

About the authors: Gina Aranki is the executive director of Child and Family Services. Nancy Stevenson is the community crisis director for Northern Lakes Community Mental Health.

They work with the grassroots Community Crisis Assistance Team (CCAT) to improve the continuum of care for those with mental health and/or substance use disorders in the Grand Traverse area.

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