AMHMY Press Release
For Immediate Release: June 3, 2022
Jackson, Hillsdale, Michigan – A group of families gathered for the Lifeways Community Mental Health Board meeting last night to push back against disinformation and advocate for Mental Health reform for children with Severe Emotional Disturbance in Michigan. These are children who are at-risk for suicide, inpatient hospitalization, or juvenile detention based on the severity of their needs. Parents explained how they have been unable to access appropriate supports and services that are needed to keep children safe in their homes.
“I keep hearing how easy it is to access and navigate the Community Mental Health system and that children receive high quality care, including a variety of specialty services that you can only get through the public health system. As a parent group, we are saying this is simply not true,” said Rachel Murray, co-founder of the group calling itself “Advocates for Mental Health of MI Youth”.
Another parent, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her child’s privacy, shared what happened the last time she called for crisis support from Lifeways . “I spent 30 minutes on the call, mostly on hold. They told me there was nobody available for crisis support. There wasn’t even a clinician available that could consult with me by phone. They told me they would call the police for me instead. Meanwhile, my child was having a mental health crisis and was in critical danger to herself.”
The Community Mental Health system is funded by Medicaid and has statutory responsibility to provide a 24 hour response in every county in Michigan. However, parents routinely report that they cannot access help when they call for crisis support, which endangers children and their communities.
Families from all over the state attended the Lifeways board meeting hoping to bring attention to this state-wide issue, demand accountability, and press for children to receive mental health services that are supposed to be guaranteed.
Laura Marshall, a parent from Kent County shared how her son is currently in juvenile detention because of her CMH’s lack of support. “I have been asking for help for my son through our CMH, Network180 for about 9 years. They are refusing to provide supports and services in our home and community, as federally contracted, to help us maintain a basic level of safety. They told me to go through the Juvenile Justice system for services. Our son has had multiple stays in juvenile detention, but not ONE stay in a therapeutic placement that provides mental and behavioral supports and services. My son is NOT a criminal. He needs mental and behavioral health support.”
Parents at the meeting cited unreasonably long delays in processing applications for program eligibility, then more delays processing authorizations for services. Often, services aren’t provided even after families receive the authorizations for services. All of this is out of compliance with contractual guidelines set by the State of Michigan.
“More advocacy groups and legislators working on mental health reform need to listen to parents talk about the system failures they are experiencing and the catastrophic impact it is having on their families,” said Michelle Massey Barnes, Lifeways client and another co-founder of the group.
The group is asking for:
Policy and advocacy reform to consider the lived experience of families struggling to navigate the public mental health system
Accountability and oversight that ends out-of-compliance practices that prevent children from getting the services they need
Access to the full continuum of care and services outlined in the Michigan Medicaid provider manual
Advocates for Mental Health of MI Youth is a parent-led, grassroots group working on behalf of youth in need of complex mental health supports and services in Michigan. Families assist each other in navigating the system while also advocating for accountability and policy change. To get involved, visit their website at www.MentalHealth4MIYouth.com or email [email protected].