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Washtenaw County to expand mental health, substance use services May 1

Ann Arbor News - 4/1/2019

April 01-- Apr. 1--ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Washtenaw County is preparing to expand its mental health and substance use services on May 1, thanks to revenue from a new countywide mental health and public safety millage.

Washtenaw County Community Mental Health currently provides crisis response services for all residents, but due to prior funding constraints, the department could only offer ongoing treatment to people with Medicaid.

A new Crisis, Access, Resources, Engagement and Support (CARES) program will change that.

CARES will respond to crises across the county and serve as an access point for ongoing mental health and substance use treatment and support services.

"The CARES team will be able to provide the right service at the right time and the right place for all Washtenaw County residents regardless of need, insurance type or severity of illness," said Trish Cortes, executive director of Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, in a press release.

Community Mental Health will offer services like individual and group counseling, medication prescription and management services, peer support services, substance use recovery and support services and veteran support services to anyone who cannot find a provider to offer treatment in a timely manner.

The services will continue until a patient can be referred to appropriate community partners and providers.

The expanded services are made possible by an eight-year mental health and public safety millage, which voters passed in November 2017. The property tax, levied for the first time in December 2018, is expected to raise $15.4 million in its first year.

Roughly three quarters of the new revenue will be split between Washtenaw County Community Mental Health and the Sheriff's Office. And nearly a quarter of the funds will go to seven municipalities that have their own police forces to use as they see fit.

Washtenaw County's goal is to create a mental health response system that allows individuals to see a clinician within 24 hours and offers alternatives to seeking treatment in jails, crisis residential homes, inpatient settings and emergency rooms.

To prepare to expand services, Community Mental Health has been hiring new staff since the start of the year.

The agency has been to assembling an interdisciplinary team with expertise in nursing, social work, crisis services, psychiatry, addiction treatment and peer counseling.

CARES should be operating at full capacity starting May 1, and in the meantime, the program will serve patients from inpatient psychiatric units, people who interact with the county's crisis team and other referrals made on a case-by-case basis.

For now, CARES will offer services at existing Community Mental Health offices at 110 N. Fourth Ave. in Ann Arbor, and 555 Towner St. in Ypsilanti.

Additional service locations, including a 24/7 observation and crisis response center in Ypsilanti and satellite sites in western Washtenaw County and Whitmore Lake will be added later this year.

These first steps to hire staff, expand services, open satellite locations and open a 24/7 crisis response center fulfill the four initial investments Washtenaw County Commissioners committed to make with the new millage money.

Going forward, Community Mental Health will develop plans to expand services related to community outreach programs, youth treatment and prevention services, substance use treatment and prevention programs, supportive housing services and other needs.

On the public safety side, the following steps are in progress:

--New mental health crisis training will be offered to corrections officers;

--Community Mental Health staff will be integrated into the county's crisis negotiations team. The county also will launch a "crisis intervention team" trained to respond to public safety events involving people with mental health and substance use disorders;

--A new mental health unit will be created at the jail to house inmates with severe mental illnesses and provide them with intensive mental health treatment; and

--New community partnerships will assist with discharge planning for inmates re-entering society.

Community Mental Health and the sheriff's office also hosted a workshop on March 19 facilitated by the National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice to discuss how to better respond to the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system who have mental health and substance use conditions.


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