Gov. Whitmer signed the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget into law on July 20 which included $3 million to support the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (NLCMHA) Crisis Welcoming Center becoming a local Crisis Stabilization Unit and the development of a youth crisis residential unit.
Joanie Blamer, NLCMHA Interim CEO, expressed gratitude for this latest funding, saying, “I would like to thank Representatives John Roth and Jack O’Malley and Senator Wayne Schmidt for their advocacy of these much-needed congressional dollars to expand access to care for people experiencing a mental health crisis.”
Momentum has been building for the northern Michigan region to leap ahead in expanding options for people in mental health crisis. The efforts began several years ago with NLCMHA’s crisis system redesign and addition of mobile crisis teams for adults and youth (using Michigan Health Endowment Funds to start the FAST program in 2017).
To begin to fill the needs, in May 2020, NLCMHA first applied for and received state grant funds to staff the NLCMHA Crisis Welcoming Center. Then, earlier this summer, NLCMHA was notified it will receive $1.8 million in a federal appropriation to operate a six-bed Crisis Residential Unit, thanks to advocacy from Senators Stabenow and Peters.
A study commissioned in December 2020 by NLCMHA and North Country CMHA, with support from Munson Medical Center and McLaren Health System, provided detailed findings and foundational data, and amplified the needs of the region.
The Northern Michigan Crisis System Assessment Report, released in June 2021, showed need for crisis residential and crisis stabilization units and estimated that less than one-third of the people presenting in crisis and prospectively meeting criteria for psychiatric inpatient hospitalization actually need to be referred to the hospital.
A great deal of community input was sought among a diverse group of stakeholders in the development of the report, including community meetings, community survey, focus groups, structured interviews, network adequacy assessment, and more. As a result of the process of gathering data and publication of the final report, the community became aware of the needs and engaged around solutions.
The Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region (NM-CHIR) convened a Behavioral Health Initiative Action Summit in the fall of 2021 with funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
According to Jane Sundmacher, NW-CHIR Executive Director, the Action Summit generated huge enthusiasm for working toward collaborative solutions.
“About 150 people from across the region came together in November 2021 at the CHIR’s first Behavioral Health Action Summit. Participants were inspired to form twelve Action Groups around different aspects of behavioral health, ranging from increasing access to care, to expanding crisis options, to measuring burnout among behavioral health providers, to reducing stigma among youth,” said Sundmacher.
Sundmacher said, “The Crisis Center Action Team, led by co-chairs Joanie Blamer from NLCMHA, Kate Dahlstrom from the local NAMI chapter, and Terri LaCroix-Kelty from Munson Medical Center, made remarkable progress in just a few months.”
One of the Crisis Center Action Team’s first accomplishments was to secure funding through the Huckle Family Foundation of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation for a Business/Operational Plan for the Crisis Center.
An Emerging Needs Grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City, with additional funds from NLCMHA and Munson Medical Center, allowed the Crisis Center Action Team to hire a project manager. They will support the ongoing discussions, planning and development of a Community Crisis Wellness Center for Children and Adults.
The proposed Community Crisis Wellness Center for Children and Adults will serve communities across northern Michigan, which are increasingly challenged by pressures on their healthcare and criminal justice systems from persons experiencing behavioral health (BH) crises arising from mental health, addiction, and related unresolved needs.
Blamer said, “The successes of NLCMHA are integral contributions to the larger community effort to build a best practice continuum of crisis services in the region. The Community Crisis Wellness Center will add other important parts of this continuum of care by offering additional wellness support services to treat the whole person before, during and after a crisis.
“There is still work to be done to identify and procure a physical location to house our grand vision. Together, I’m confident that we will find a way and keep the momentum moving forward.
“The result will be decreased jail, emergency department, and inpatient hospitalization use, easier access for law enforcement and, most important, more stabilized vulnerable community members.
“Overall, we are all working together on the common goal to improve the health and safety for our region.”