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Michigan Senate OKs $565 million for mental health funding

capitol dome
The mental-health funding cleared the Senate in a 37-1 vote Wednesday. (Nagel Photography /

The Michigan Senate advanced legislation Wednesday that would pump millions of additional dollars into the state’s mental health system, voting 37-1 to direct funding toward increasing the number of psychiatric beds, improving hospital infrastructure and more.

Senate Bill 714, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, would direct nearly $550 million in federal COVID-19 funding towards various mental health initiatives and totals $565 million overall. 

The plan includes $100 million for a grant program to boost the number of long-term pediatric inpatient slots, $35 million for expanding mental health services, and $50 million to potentially overhaul the state’s community mental-health system.

Related: Latest effort to reform Michigan’s mental-health system finds critics

Other proposed spending includes funding for hospital infrastructure, crisis stabilization units, psychiatric residential treatment facilities and other related programs, such as career path apprenticeships for mental health workers.

As Bridge Michigan has previously reported, the state is woefully short on child psychiatrists and other mental-health workers. There is also a dearth of in-patient beds for young people struggling with mental illness, particularly in the Upper Peninsula and other rural areas, amid a surge in adolescents and others requiring more support. The lack of services and hospital capacity have often left children and adolescents stranded in hospital emergency rooms for days or weeks at a time as families wait for beds in speciality facilities to open. 

Some of the funding approved Wednesday is tied to legislation Shirkey has proposed to privatize parts of the state’s $3.6 billion mental-health system and shift local decision-making powers to for-profit insurers, which remains pending and has sparked criticism from many county-level community mental health organizations and other mental health advocates. 

But Shirkey called Wednesday’s legislation an “important next step” towards changing the trajectory of mental health in Michigan. 

"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.”

The legislation was sent to the Michigan House for further review, and would need to be signed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

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