LANSING - One mother's story spurred dozens of others to share their own tales of defeat in the search for proper youth mental health care. While the circumstances differed, the bottom line remained consistent: there's a disconnect in the available care for children struggling with mental health.
The number of children in need of treatment for mental health disorders continues to inundate the supply. Dr. George Mellos, director of Michigan's bureau of hospitals, said it's a fact that he and everyone within the system are well aware of.
"There’s a spectrum of mental illness. You can have mild depression that is easily treatable with a quick hospitalization and then appropriate after care. Then there is severe recurrent depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia," Mellos said.
"If you are on the severe end of the spectrum, it is sometimes a challenge to secure appropriate after care services. I am certainly not going to deny that."
For many parents, their child's first rage or incident happens during school. Schools are beginning to expand the available services for mental health care, but there are still a number of schools without the resources to do so. In turn, students are often missing school awaiting an evaluation or a plan for treatment.
The path to treatment looks different based on insurance. Those with commercial insurance can go directly to hospitals like Forest View or Pine Rest to try to get their child care. Parents on Medicaid must go through their community mental health organization to then get a referral for one of the area hospitals. It's worth noting that Community Mental Health (CMH) is a good resource for anyone struggling to determine their next step.
The state of Michigan is not setup to house mental health patients for extended periods of time, but there is also not adequate continued care to keep children on track following a temporary hospital stay. Due to the current demand, Dr. Mellos said the bureau is looking into the possibility of intermediate and long- term care beds for children with severe conditions. These beds would provide care for 3 to 6 months before putting the child back in their community with intensive at home care. The goal, Dr. Mellos says is a 'hospital without walls' model.
Right now, it's often times the first responders who are tasked with de-escalating situations related to mental health. This fact has led to more extensive training for police forces in the state, but ideally, it could be prevented through all encompassing care.
"There is help on the way, we certainly recognize the situation. I see it and live it everyday and we are doing what we can in a rational way. However, being as timely as possible," Dr. Mellos said.
Community Mental Health Organizations:
Network 180 - Kent County 616-336-3909
Ottawa County Community Mental Health 866-512-4357
HealthWest - Muskegon County 231-722-4357
Find a complete list of CMH groups here.
There are also state subsidies available for CMH.
Note: CMH handles Medicaid users with moderate to severe mental health disorders, while groups like Priority or Molina handle Medicaid for mild to moderate cases.
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