TRAVERSE CITY – An assessment of behavioral health crisis services in northern Michigan shows what many already know: More services are needed.
The solutions to be determined, based in Grand Rapids, examined 650 surveys completed by those who use behavioral services, families of those who use the services and those working in the field to provide recommendations for expanded options in all 12 counties. served by Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. Authority and Community Mental Health Authority of the North of the country.
Mental health and addiction services fall under the category of behavioral health services.
Recommendations from the study include expanding and expanding crisis services with new programs and adding existing programs, said Travis Atkinson, director of clinical and crisis services for TBD Solutions. Atkinson presented the results of the study on Friday via Zoom.
This means more psychiatric hospital beds, emergency accommodation beds, a crisis stabilization unit for walk-in services that would also allow law enforcement to drop people off instead of taking them away. emergency room, and a psychiatric emergency care center that would operate for about 12 hours a day, Atkinson said.
Specifically, the study recommends a crisis stabilization unit in Traverse City; a six-bed residential crisis unit in Traverse City where people would stay an average of seven days; a six-bed psychiatric emergency department in Petoskey; and 16 inpatient psychiatric beds in Cheboygan, including six for children, although beds may vary between adults and children as needed.
Children in the Traverse City area who need mental health services are often referred to Grand Rapids, about 150 miles away. Cheboygan is closer about 110 miles, but over two hours away.
Ginger Kadlec, executive director of the Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, said the CAC has three trauma therapists on staff and always has waiting lists for children and their families. There has also been a slight increase over the past year in previous clients returning for services, she said.
“It seems like there is so much we need to do on a regional basis,” Kadlec said. “While I appreciate that this is a good start, there are other things we can do to strengthen the safety net for children experiencing mental health crises.”
Other recommendations include minimizing the use of first responders, Atkinson said.
“For decades, behavioral health emergencies have had to go through systems designed for medical emergencies,” Atkinson said. “What we’re trying to do is have the first service that people access is a behavioral health emergency service and not a service that tries to triage in the midst of medical emergencies.”
The study was carried out over six months in partnership with Munson Healthcare and McLaren Northern Michigan. It included focus groups with around 50 participants who spoke about their own experiences with behavioral health services, as well as analysis of three years of data on things like the number of people who came forward for service. emergencies with a behavioral health problem or how quickly people were served when they accessed emergency services.
“Northern Lakes will assess the reported recommendations and, through thoughtful planning with our community partners, determine what can be accomplished,” said Joanie Blamer, Interim CEO of Northern Lakes, in an emailed statement. “We are committed to improving services for people experiencing a mental health crisis. “
Northern Lakes has applied for approximately $ 5 million in grants over two years which, if received, will be used to open, staff and operate a 24-hour crisis stabilization unit with six residential beds in its administration building in downtown Traverse City.
State Representative John Roth recently told Grand Traverse County Commissioners that funding for mental health centers in Traverse City and Gaylord is coming to the area, although he has not had any details on the amount of money available or the number of beds the centers will have. .
Atkinson said crisis services should also be available to all types of payers, he said, although those providing services may have to prove that they can provide services profitably before companies pay. commercial insurance are on board.
“We want to make sure that your community has services that allow people to access them regardless of the type of insurance taken,” said Atkinson, calling it a no-wrong approach. “You’re not going to be moved or mixed up depending on your type of insurance. “
Another recommendation would be to offer transportation to those who have to travel long distances to get to an available bed, an effort that would free law enforcement. Some other states have programs that rely on retired officers and military personnel and peer supports to provide transportation at a much lower cost, he said.
Atkinson said people who work in emergency departments should be trained to empathize with people with mental illness and not use phrases like “frequent traveler” to describe people who use a lot. Services.
“When you say frequent flyer, you start to place a set of judgments or beliefs on that person,” he said. “You have to keep this hope alive, that people can change and maybe this is the time that will help.”
Kadlec is encouraged by the spotlight on the issue of mental health.
“I hope we can come together as a community and figure out what works best for adults and young people,” she said. “I think it’s a nut we can crack.”