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Shirkey’s long-sought mental health legislation was defeated in a bipartisan vote

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s long-sought mental health legislation was defeated in the Michigan Senate this week, and its defeat results in millions of dollars in funding.

Senate Bill 597 and Senate Bill 598, sponsored by Shirkey, R-Clarklake and Sen. John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, were introduced in the Senate on Tuesday and quickly defeated by bipartisan votes. The bills were tied to a separate supplemental bill that would have given Michigan’s mental health system more than $560 million.

The bill, which was unpopular among several community mental health organizations, would have created a phased specialized integrated plan to merge the administration and delivery of the Medicaid physical health care service and specialized behavioral health services.

Shirkey, who will leave the legislature at the end of this term, lobbied for some time for Senate Bill 597 and Senate Bill 598 to pass.

Shirkey did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story. He did, however, make remarks regarding the bills in the Senate when they were introduced in July 2021.

“Providers and (community mental health services) in this state have a very difficult job to do, but they’ve done it within an outdated model that creates situations where depending on where one lives determines quantity and quality of mental health services available,” Shirkey said. “…these bills detail the stage of this transition to a coordinated and integrated effort for the delivery of public health services. integrating mental and physical health to ensure that those who are among our most vulnerable population continue to get the services they need.”

A portion of Senate Bill 714 funding intended to be used for the proposal was later cut with the bills’ defeat.

Related: Michigan’s mental health sector could see a $565 million increase

Projects affected by the additional bill include $15 million for Medicaid mental health services, $25 million in grants for facilities and providers that integrate their environment with physical and behavioral health services and providers, as well as as $15 million in funding for the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network to establish a centralized integrated service center to provide physical and mental health services.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, who voted in favor of the bill on Tuesday, also did not return a request for comment.

Shirkey’s bills have been opposed by several community mental health organizations for a number of reasons, such as the belief that the proposed changes would create new difficulties in accessing care while failing to provide oversight or accountability. sufficient.

Last October, a coalition of statewide organizations – the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, the Michigan Association for Family Court Administration and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan –said that in written testimony to the Senate Government Operations Committee, which Shirkey chairs.

“Thousands of families across the state of Michigan depend on the public mental health system for affordable and accessible health care,” the group’s statement said. “The suggested legislative changes do very little to improve care and access for people with mental illness and addictions.

“The proposal focuses only on the level of administrative/managed care, not the level of direct service, and the suggested changes could actually hurt people getting the care they need at a time when so many people in our State are struggling, vulnerable and in need of Support.”

The bills would have been launched on January 1, 2023. Given the rejection of Shirkey’s legislation and the likelihood of major policy passing for the rest of the year, any further mental health measures may have to wait until the new legislative mandate. starts in January.

Melina Brann is director of policy and advocacy for the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, which has also opposed the bills. She said for the next term, lawmakers hoping to tackle mental health issues should consider expanding services that already exist and additional funding.

“There’s a huge affordability issue for those who don’t get Medicaid within the (community mental health) system, so we need to expand that to other insurance as well,” Brann said. “We can also use financial assistance to increase the mental health and addictions workforce shortage.”

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