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Advocates fear budget language could lead to privatization of mental health system

Nick Savchenko

Stateside's conversation with Kevin Fischer, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Credit Nick Savchenko / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

If certain health providers and legislators get their way, Michigan's mental health system could soon be privatized.

Pretty much everyone agrees that closer coordination of mental and physical health care would be a good thing for patients.

After all, the mind is connected to the body, but just how to get there has been up for fierce debate going on two years now.

In passing its version of the Department of Health and Human Services budget for 2018-19, the Senate inserted a provision that has advocates and mental health providers concerned.

Kevin Fischer, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, joined Stateside today. He has been following these developments closely. 

Listen above to hear how the Michigan mental health system could be privatized, and what the implications are for Michiganders.

Stateside also reached out to Senator Mike Shirkey, a supporter of the new health care bills. He sent us the statement below.

It is unfortunate that the CMH’s continue to oppose behavioral and physician health integration.  The boilerplate adopted by the Senate simply states that CMHs in the pilot regions not be the only service provider of Behavioral Health Services for Medicaid beneficiaries that are currently already having their physician health needs served by Medicaid Health Plans.  The language also requires Health Plans to continue to manage functions that are necessary to continue receive national accreditation, further ensuring quality services to beneficiaries.

The intent of this language allow the pilots to address one of the concerns with the status quo which was raised during the previous 298 Workgroup sessions - limited access to care through the existing

CMH structure.  By allowing Medicaid Health Plans to contract with additional service providers it is my hope that these pilots will show a pathway to increased access to timely high quality care.


It is disappointing that some CMH’s continue to fight testing the opportunities integration affords.  CMH’s should focus on insuring their services are compelling and productive so Health Plans in these pilots would conclude they are the best provider.  But more often than not, what we are witnessing is strong resistance to changing status quo.  It is VERY  IMPORTANT to remind everyone, the ONLY objective of these pilots is to honestly and robustly test full integration in order to free up MORE RESOURCES for mental and behavioral health. 


I think that goal is too easily dismissed due to the natural inertia against change. 


Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.

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