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Community Mental Health - Millage News

Posted on: August 27, 2019

Millage-funded staff work to meet countywide demand

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A countywide mental health and substance use disorder service expansion--particularly for historically underserved populations across Washtenaw--has been a key priority for millage investments from the start.

As such, when millage funds first became available on January 1, 2019, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH) quickly began to recruit staff for two objectives: First, to expand its existing 24/7 crisis-response service capacity and second, to begin to offer outpatient mental health and substance use services to all county residents, regardless of their insurance type, severity of need, or ability to pay.

Crisis response

Millage-funded staff expansions have allowed WCCMH to respond to 800 more crisis service requests in first six months of 2019--from January to June--than the agency did during the same time frame last year.

Crisis response team members rush out in pairs to offer rapid response following community requests. They meet residents wherever they are and offer immediate assessment and support to individuals who might be experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Many of our county’s 911 crisis calls are fueled or exacerbated by mental health and substance use concerns," says Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton .

"Over the last six months the sheriff’s office has been able to reach out to the CARES team to ask behavioral health counselors and peer-support specialists to join our deputy sheriffs in response to managing behavioral health crisis in our community. We’re tremendously grateful to Washtenaw County residents for making that possible.”

Community care and crisis prevention

WCCMH’s millage-funded outpatient team has also seen a significant expansion in service capacity over the last several months.

Between May 1, when WCCMH officially extended outpatient services to residents across the county, and July 1--a two-month period--the team received 250 referrals for individuals aged 8 through 77. More than one-quarter of these referrals (25.8 percent) were for teens and young adults.

"Outpatient services are critical," says WCCMH Program Administrator Melisa Tasker . "They can help to mitigate or prevent a crisis by providing immediate mental health care including case management, individual and group therapy, peer support, and psychiatric services."

Since May 1, CARES staff have not only helped prevent crises through traditional behavioral health care, they have also helped prevent them by securing housing for clients; providing transportation to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; helping opioid-dependent clients find and enroll in medication-assisted treatment programs; and more.

With gratitude

"The CARES team is the best improvement to the county’s mental health system in the last decade," says Dr. Raymond Rion, Executive Director, Packard Health . "The patients we care for at Packard Health and in our county have already benefited from the additional expertise and resources CARES has brought to the community. This is an excellent use of millage dollars and is improving care in vitally important ways."

"Before our community mental health system could only serve residents with Medicaid, so others--some with severe mental health and substance use needs--couldn’t access our services," says Tasker. "Now, thanks to Washtenaw County voters, we can serve residents with all types of insurance and get them the care they need."

 "Washtenaw County Commissioner Andy LaBarre got the millage proposal in front of the County Commissioners and on the ballot," says WCCMH Director Trish Cortes . "We’re so thankful for his help kicking this off, for the taxpayer’s support last fall, and for the chance to provide this level of service to a county that has needed it for quite some time."

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