Mental Health Funding Gaps Foreshadow Crises in Michigan

Summary report predicts homelessness, poverty, increased incarceration and deaths

March 29,2019 – The Community Mental Health Association of Michigan (CMHAM) today released a new analysis, “Systemic Underfunding of Michigan’s Public Mental Health System,” which studies the longstanding underfunding of Michigan’s public mental healthcare system. The study cites a $150 million gap between the cost of health care and the funding provided to Michigan’s public mental health system. The need and cost for services provided by HealthWest (the Community Mental Health for Muskegon County) has been increasing each year. HealthWest is serving an average of 15% more people each year, over the past five years. The intellectually and developmentally disabled population served by HealthWest grows by an average of 7% each year. This population requires the highest-cost services. Despite extensive growth in the demand for services, revenue over the past five years has only grown by an average of 1.67% per year. In addition to the growing population served by HealthWest, expenses per person served have also increased by an average of 2.75% annually.

CMHAM’s analysis makes five concrete recommendations to address the current crises in unmet mental health and substance use disorder needs – recommendations that, if followed, will stem homelessness, poverty, incarceration and the premature death of Michiganders with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders.

“Michiganders do not face the same mental health and substance use disorder needs that they had 20 years ago,” said Robert Sheehan, the CEO of the CMHAM (formerly the Michigan Association of Mental Health Boards). “There are new demands, new crises and new conditions in every community throughout Michigan, which the original financing structure did not account for. These include the opioid crisis, incarceration of those with mental health needs, the recognition of the prevalence of autism, increased homelessness and more—yet the system is still operating from a decades old funding structure. This is the reality that the public mental health system in Michigan has faced for decades. Without moving toward the ambitious vision outlined by the Association and addressing this outdated funding structure, Michiganders will continue to live without the mental health care that they need and expect.”

“HealthWest is doing more with less. We have reduced expenditures by increasing caseload size and cutting administrative costs.” said Julia Rupp, HealthWest Executive Director. “Our staff are working hard to provide the best quality care to everyone who comes through our doors.” HealthWest spent an average of $14,372 per consumer in FY2015. That decreased 26% to $10,576 in FY2018. HealthWest has seen significant increases in service requests for Muskegon County youth as well as individuals with substance use disorders.  Muskegon County is home to 13% of the region’s population, but accounted for 38% of the region’s Substance Use Disorder admissions last year.

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