Friday, June 9, 2017

Will Michigan legislators listen to constituents on mental health funding proposals?

Michigan Public Radio aired an interview on 6/7/2017 with Gail Marsh, the mother of an adult daughter with Down Syndrome, and Bob White, the father of two adult sons on the autism spectrum. Both parents have been involved in “Section 298” workgroups and affinity groups for more than a year. These groups were formed after the Governor’s budget proposed to shift mental health Medicaid funding from public Community Mental Health (CMH) agencies to private health plans that currently administer Medicaid medical health plans. They were a response to the strong opposition that met the Governor's proposal. 

People with developmental disabilities are one of the populations served by the mental health system in local Community Mental Health (CMH) agencies.

From the Michigan Radio website, "Parents 'afraid to die' because of fear mental health care system won’t take care of their children" by Stateside staff and Josh Hakala, 6/7/17:

“Tomorrow, state lawmakers are expected to release their final budget for fiscal year 2017-18 for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“That budget will reveal if Republicans have chosen to shift control of mental health funding – which amounts to nearly $2.5 billion in annual Medicaid payments – away from public mental health organizations, and transfer it to private insurers.

"Listen to the full interview … to hear more about their children and how they rely on mental health services as well as Marsh's examples of how privatizing ‘doesn't work’ and why White describes it as a form of ‘outsourcing.’"

Here is part of the interview with Gail Marsh on how the legislature has so far ignored much of the public input from the “Section 298 Initiative”. Start listening at about 12 minutes and 30 seconds into the interview. [Note that in this discussion, “integration” of care is about integrating funding for medical and behavioral health services under one administrative roof - the private Medicaid health plans.] The stakeholder workgroups and affinity groups overwhelmingly supported maintaining a public system to provide behavioral health services which include the social services and supports necessary to maintain people served in community settings.

Gail Marsh recently testified at a Michigan House appropriations subcommittee where she heard references to a State Senator’s comment that, “We’ve been dancing around the concept of integration for too long and the legislature needs to force things to happen.”

Here is her response in the interview:

“…I told them, the reason we’ve been dancing around total integration for so long is because it’s not what people want …The job they’ve been hired to do …is not to force unwanted things on their constituents, but to listen to the people who elected them. So, both the House and the Senate…have dismissed the recommendations of the workgroup and the stakeholder affinity groups, which were to maintain a public behavioral healthcare system.”

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