LANSING — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to spend nearly $550 million in federal pandemic aid to primarily boost mental health services, including $50 million to prepare for a potential overhaul of the state’s Medicaid behavioral health system.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s legislation to let private insurers manage Medicaid service for recipients with severe mental health, substance abuse disorders or cognitive disabilities remains pending on the floor. But the supplemental budget bill, which was approved 36-1 and sent to the House, would tie more than $100 million in “integration readiness” and other funding to passage of the policy bills.
“Michigan’s mental health system is failing patients, their families, providers and taxpayers,” Shirkey said. “This bill is a piece, an important piece, of what I hope is a comprehensive plan to address this broken system.”
Leaders among Michigan’s existing county-level community mental health agencies have been opposed to privatization of their management services.
The spending measure, which totals $590 million including state funds, would fund more than three dozen initiatives or programs related to health care — mainly in the mental health sector. Big ticket items include:
- $100 million for a competitive grant program to increase the number of long-term pediatric psychiatric inpatient slots by at least 120. Applicants would have to provide a 20 percent match. Grants could not exceed $25 million.
- $35 million for Ascension Health, which has hospitals across Michigan. A Shirkey spokesperson said it would help Ascension “greatly expand their behavioral health capacity in an area of the state where additional bed space and treatment options are desperately needed.”
- $30 million to expand apprenticeships in medical fields.
- $25 million for entities interested in establishing psychiatric residential treatment facilities.
- $25 million for facilities wanting to create crisis stabilization units.
- $25 million to fund an expansion of a state loan repayment program for mental health professionals who work in underserved areas.
- $25 million to upgrade all five state-run psychiatric hospitals.
- $25 million, a 50 percent match, to build a central intake assessment facility for the Macomb County Jail.
- $20 million to add telemedicine services at local health offices, homeless shelters, community centers and similar entities.
- $6 million for Michigan Medicine to create a dedicated emergency room for children and adolescents.
- $5 million to expand the Hawthorn Center in Northville, a state psychiatric hospital for children.
Sen. Stephanie Chang, a Detroit Democrat, unsuccessfully tried to remove provisions linking some funding to approval of the legislation that would integrate Medicaid recipients with severe mental health, substance abuse disorders or cognitive disabilities into the regular physical health system, much of which is managed by for -profit plans.
“Social workers, community mental health institutions and others with years of expertise in mental health have substantial concerns with these bills, which are centered on financial integration of behavioral and physical health in a top-down approach that should instead be centered on the people actually receiving behavioral health services,” she said.
Chang still voted for the spending bill.