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Community Mental Health - Millage News

Posted on: June 18, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Not just a bed. Millage funds shelters, staff to help residents get and stay healthy

A care manager hands keys to someone in need

For Avalon Housing, the millage has funded support services at Hickory Way, a residential community that offers easy access to transportation and amenities for those who have experienced chronic homelessness.

Each apartment at Hickory Way is meant to be a “forever home” for any resident who wants one, says Scott Maurmann, a clinical mental health counselor and case manager who leads the support team for the community’s 34 residents.

Millage-funded support staff like Maurmann provide on-site case management, helping Hickory Way residents get and stay healthy—both physically and mentally—through an on-site clinic run by Packard Health. Staff also provide connections to community-based health, mental health, and substance use treatment providers, as needed.

“It’s kind of meeting each individual where they’re at, identifying their unique needs, and providing either a connection or hands-on support to meet those needs,” says Maurmann.

For the Ypsilanti Housing Commission, the millage has helped its Family Empowerment Program earn supportive housing certification from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and then funded supportive housing services for residents of New Parkridge in Ypsilanti.

Melinda Miller, a case manager at the Family Empowerment Program, says the 22 residents she serves at New Parkridge contact her for anything—from meeting their immediate food needs to helping them set up an email account.

“They can always call,” says Miller, who tells them that if they can’t figure something out by themselves, they can figure it out together.

Avalon Housing and the Ypsilanti Housing Commission, the organizations Maurmann and Miller serve, are two of four local agencies that received millage contracts last year to enhance supportive housing for youth and adults with mental health and substance use concerns. 

“One of the key recommendations made by Washtenaw County’s Community Mental Health Advisory Committee was to invest millage revenue in supportive housing,” says Trish Cortes, executive director of Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH). 

To achieve this objective, WCCMH worked with the Washtenaw County Office of Community Economic Development to develop a request for proposals, soliciting bids for three-year supportive housing projects in the areas of youth and adult crisis, prevention, and stabilization. Four of the nominated projects were selected for funding, receiving a total of $1.2 million.

The other supportive housing contract recipients included the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County (SAWC), which is using millage resources to add beds dedicated to clients who need immediate temporary housing, and Ozone House, which is adding beds and services for runaway and homeless youth aged 18 – 24.

At SAWC, also known as the Delonis Center, millage funds cover behavioral health supports—including mental health and substance use treatment, as needed, plus housing case management to locate and transition to permanent, safe housing.

At Ozone House, millage funds provide a safe place for homeless youth to build skills that contribute to healthy, positive, and productive lives by offering case management, life skills training, therapeutic services, and role models.

In addition to adding capacity, the millage funding allowed Ozone House to hire a housing case manager, Alex Alaniz, to link transition-aged youth to permanent housing opportunities. 

Alaniz works primarily with young clients who are on the waitlist for housing, helping them build their resumes, search for jobs, continue their education, and prepare to manage their own budgeting, shopping, cooking, and home maintenance.

In addition to Alaniz’s work with Ozone House clients, she is also providing support services to younger clients referred by SOS Family Services and the Delonis Center.

“People expect parents to help manage the transition from youth to adulthood,” says Alaniz, “but not everyone has support during that transition.”

Alaniz says she’s passionate about being a stable, constant adult in young people’s lives. Maurmann says the work with Hickory Way residents is inspiring.

“I don’t think I’ve had as many teary-eyed moments as I’ve had in the last two and a half weeks as we’ve been able to move folks in,” says Maurmann. “This is going to touch so many people in our community. It will provide an avenue for people to get help, to feel safe, and to have a home.” 

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