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In Michigan, “A Crack in the System”

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 (Mar. 1, 2013) “If you’re lucky you get in, if not, emergency rooms child welfare and juvenile justice are your only options,” one family said about trying to get help for a loved one with severe mental illness in Michigan (“A crack in the system,” WILX, Feb. 19).

crack_in_the_systemMichigan lost 47% of its public psychiatric beds between 2005 and 2010. Now, the impact of deinstitutionalization is “bringing an increasing number of patients to local jails or state prisons. The facilities are not equipped to care for the needs of the mentally ill, but some are reporting a third or more of inmates with mental illnesses.”

"We have a huge gap that's being created in this state that home and community-based care is not available unless you have Medicaid, or are eligible for community mental health," said Malissa Pearson, executive director of the Association for Children's Mental Health. “Unless you're suicidal, homicidal or commit a crime, mental health services are hard to come by.”

Yet there are those who recognize the importance of providing treatment before tragedy.

Ingham County Jail Director Major Sam Davis said that if mental health needs were addressed earlier, his jail wouldn’t be so full.

It should not come to a life and death situation before we can get people who desperately need help into treatment. At the Treatment Advocacy Center we believe that people should have access to treatment before they end up suicidal, homicidal, behind bars or end up suffering any of the other consequences of non-treatment.

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