NLCMHA Advocates Attend Walk A Mile In My Shoes Rally

Members of Club Cadillac and Traverse House Clubhouse represented the six counties served by Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (NLCMHA) at the 18th annual Walk-a-Mile in My Shoes Rally to remind legislators to prioritize people first in the ongoing discussions to privatize parts of our state’s behavioral health system. The rally was held at the State Capitol in Lansing on Thursday, September 15, from 12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. to keep public behavioral healthcare as the center of political dialogue.

In 2019, nearly 4,000 advocates rallied on behalf of 300,000 vulnerable citizens at risk, as ‘Budget Section 298’ on privatization traveled through the Michigan legislature. While the passing of 298 was unsuccessful, the ongoing threat of privatization continues with the recent introduction of Senate Bill 597 and Senate Bill 598.

This year, Kevin Fischer, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Michigan Chapter, gave a rousing speech on the need to advocate against privatization efforts. He stressed that Michiganders are best served by the existing public, nonprofit mental health system.

The Community Mental Health Association of Michigan – the advocacy organization for community mental health organizations, the CMH-governed public health plans and the CMH provider networks throughout the state – organized the event. It featured an advocacy walk around the Capitol and stories from citizens who have experienced disruption of services from budget cuts, focusing on the personal experiences of those who use community mental health services.

“The public mental health system’s value lies in its ability to serve some of the most vulnerable and resilient members of our communities, while employing and continually developing innovative mental health practices in communities across the state,” said Joanie Blamer, NLCMHA Interim CEO“We must continue to advocate for persons served, ensuring a strong community-based safety net as well as continuing to collaborate across the region and state to increase access to services for even more people.”

The Michigan Public mental health system is ranked sixth in the nation for its access to services and outcomes, according to The State of Mental Health in America 2020 report. It also has significantly greater dollars spent on services for persons with mental health needs.

  • Private health plans spend 21% of Medicaid dollars received on administration and profits, leaving only 79% of remaining funds for care and services (Medicaid Managed Care Financial Results, 2020. Milliman)
  • Michigan’s public mental health system spends only 6% on administration with no funds in the form of profits to shareholders and dedicating 94% of Medicaid dollars to persons with mental health needs (Medicaid Utilization Net Cost reports for FY 2018, 2019, 2020)

Michigan’s public mental health system serves more than 300,000 individuals in the state. After enduring over a year of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the services and community engagement that community mental health organizations offer are more valuable than ever before. CMHA and CMH boards from across the state, mental health, and developmental disability advocacy organizations, work to promote accessible and affordable mental health care among the legislatures, public and media.