Monday, February 3, 2014

News about Detroit/Wayne County mental health services for DD : Part 1

Koi Pond
I don't care what the groundhog did yesterday, the prospects for spring anytime soon look pretty bleak from here. The only relief from the cold and frequent sub-zero temperatures came last week with a day or two with the temperatures rising to around freezing, adding freezing rain to the snow pack along with more snow.

Ed Diegel, from ddAdvocates of Michigan, has been sending email newsletters to people with developmental disabilities and their families to inform them of developments in the Detroit area and the new Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority (DWCMHA).

Before I get to Ed's news from Detroit, here is an explanation of the area's conversion from a Community Mental Health agency controlled by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners to an independent mental health authority with six members appointed by the Mayor of Detroit (or the Emergency Manager) and six appointed by the County Board of Commissioners. Two of the appointees must be consumers of mental health services. [Whether the switch to a mental health authority is a good idea is a topic of dispute among mental health professionals, consumers of services, and others affected by changes in state law in 2012.]

According to an article in Crain's Detroit Business, "Wayne County agency begins conversion to mental health authority", 9/25/13, the conversion began officially on October 1, 2013: "As the nation's largest county mental health organization with more than 100 employees and a budget of $640 million, the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority funds five managed care provider networks that serve 74,000 people with mental health and other developmental disabilities." Tom Watkins, former state school superintendent from 2001 - 2005, is the new CEO of the DWCMHA.

Most of the agency's funding comes from Medicaid. No one knows exactly how the agency will be impacted by Medicaid expansion, but it is likely that it will be significatnt: "On April 1, Michigan will begin enrolling an estimated 470,000 additional people eligible for Medicaid. Some 300,000 are located in Southeast Michigan. Studies have shown that one in five people have some degree of mental health problem", according to the Craig's list article.

According to the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority website, the DWCMHS " responsible for managing specialty services for Consumers with or at risk for serious emotional disturbance (SED), severe mental illness (SMI), developmental disabilities (DD), substance abuse, and MIChild beneficiaries.  The Agency manages a full array of specialty mental and substance abuse services through contracts with Managers of Comprehensive Networks (MCPNs), two Substance Abuse Coordinating Agencies, and other contractors." 

This is a slightly edited version of Ed Diegel's ddAdvocates newsletter from November 2013: 

We have been slow to acknowledge the new Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority and to welcome its new leader, Tom Watkins. We should all do this as birth of the new Authority represents a first step away from complaints of bad politics and county mismanagement of the old Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Agency.

The new organization is barely on board and the State has announced steep cuts to the Wayne, Macomb and Oakland Mental Health Budgets for the 2014 Fiscal Year which began October 1, 2013.

For Wayne County the cuts are $15.0 million. So much for the State commitment to one of the most impoverished areas in the country. Macomb and Oakland [County] cuts will be 11% and 7% respectively. The cuts effective October 1, 2013 were not announced until September 27, 2013! This timing comes from an administration that wants to run the state like a business. No successful business does such poor planning that it announces policy shifts and budget actions of this magnitude 3 days before a budget cycle. The rationale for the cuts is that Wayne, Oakland and Macomb receive a disproportionate share of the state’s Medicaid dollars and therefore these reductions followed by incremental 5% reductions each year over time were put in place. There is no attempt here to measure the disproportionate concentration or severity of persons served, or differences in cost of living or other factors that a reasonable party might use. Furthermore according to one analysis, there is within the plan also disproportionate reduction of funding for persons with Developmental Disabilities.

To my knowledge, this is not a legislative action—the State Department of Mental Health led by Mr. James Haveman is responsible for this action. Furthermore, it is of such significant importance that the Directors of Mental Health in the three counties sent a joint letter of protest to Lansing—hopefully this is a sign of a new era of cooperation flowing from
the new Authority...

To receive Ed's ddAdvocates newsletter, email Ed at .

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