High Hopes For Improved Mental Health Care in Michigan

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The Community Mental Health Authority is out with its annual report regarding the state of mental health in Michigan. While there is a lot of hope for improvement, there is also need for more funding.

"The concern is that budget constraints always tend to eat away at the greater hope and Michigan has suffered those budget constraints for decades," said Robert Sheehan, the executive director of the Community Mental Health Authority that covers Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties.

But it's not all bad news. The Community Mental Health Authority said it is making cost saving innovations and advances like electronic health record and jail based services.

Friday at the Lansing Center hundreds concerned about mental health gathered for a conference about child trauma. The conference comes at a time of change and transition in mental health care, both at the state and national levels.

"You have a republican governor and a democratic president who are both on the same page. I know this sounds odd to say these days, but they have the same agenda--which is get to people early," said Sheehan.

An ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure, but at times it is hard to show people there is or will be a problem before it occurs.

"We often wait till a person needs hospitalization, they drop out of school, they fail at work, or they fail in their marriage to intervene," said Sheehan. "It's not too late but it's really expensive to help someone put their life back together--far better if we can focus on getting to them early."

The tragic shootings in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn. have increased public interest in the need for quality mental health care.

The Community Mental Health Authority hopes policy adjustments will reflect those concerns.

"Early intervention and prevention improve quality, improve outcomes, and bring the cost down. It's always great when everything aligns and it really does. If people, if all of us can agree on how to get there the outcomes are pretty straight forward. Research shows us that," said Sheehan.

"If we are stretched so thin that we can't build relationships. If there are so many kids in a teachers class that they can't build relationships that's a problem. So really what it comes down to is spending the money on what's going to make the biggest difference and that's relationships," Dr. Tina Payne Bryson a pediatric psychotherapist and co-author of the book The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind.

"We know that the brain changes from experience so when things have gone awry or when someone's struggling people need experiences to help wire their brain for their best potential, otherwise we are going to start seeing more violence and all kinds of problems," said Bryson.

Community health experts says if there ever was a moment to improve mental health care in Michigan, it's now.

Sheehan said early prevention and intervention is underfunded and he hopes lawmakers will change that.

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