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Michigan State Representatives host virtual Mental Health Listening Tour

The discussion panel turned their focus to the U.P.’s mental health system, which is facing many tough problems.
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) -

Last night, Representatives Sara Cambensy of the 109th State House District and Felicia Brabec of the 55th State House District, along with various psychology specialists turned their focus to the U.P. for the Michigan House Democrats’ Mental Health Listening Tour.

The conference concerned the current state of the U.P.’s mental health network.

“That is our lens and that is our focus: How do we make the system, how do we improve things?,” Representative Brabec posed to the discussion panel.

“The things that are working, how do we keep those the same and make sure they’re functioning as we want them to, and where are there opportunities for us to grow in terms of what we offer in our public system?”

Representative Brabec asked the panel who serve the region what the U.P.’s mental health system is doing well, and where there is room for improvement.

“We were better organized and better able to come together in each region than many of the other systems, because we already had lines of communication in place, we had a system in place,” Dr. Zakia Alavi, Chief Medical Officer of NorthCare Network, said.

“I think we’re in the right direction with our substance use disorder services,” Brian Foreman, the Behavioral Health Program Manager of Upper Great Lakes Family Care, said.

While there are some positives, the system faces many complex issues.

“The only thing I would say is, where we’re not well with that one specifically is we need more for youth,” Foreman added.

“Our organization, we do medicated assisted treatment for those with opiate addiction, and we’re seeing a lot of kids that they’re coming in at 17, 18 that have been using for four, five, six years already, and that support wasn’t there.”

Much like other health care services, staffing is top of the list of issues.

“One of our contracted providers has lost 144 staff this year alone,” Michael St. John, Chief Executive Officer of Pathways Community Mental Health, said.

“I can’t pay them wages to compete with C.M.H.’s in Lower Michigan, so I’ll never recruit someone from outside the area and I’ll never have enough homegrown numbers inside my area to ever get the right bodies here.”

The State Representatives hope to eventually introduce legislation based on the attendees’ thoughts.

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