Six month update

Resources from the Washtenaw County Mental Health and Public Safety Preservation Millage first became available on January 1, 2019.

In this email, we highlight some of the work accomplished in the first six months, announce rural service expansions, introduce the new Millage Advisory Committee, describe a new grant opportunity for local high schools, and more.
More services, all residents
Millage-funded staff work to meet county-wide demand
County-wide service expansion--particularly historically under-served populations across Washtenaw--has been a key priority for millage investments from the start.

As such, when millage funds first became available on January 1, 2019, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH) quickly began to recruit staff for two objectives: First, to expand its existing 24/7 crisis-response service capacity and second, to begin to offer outpatient mental health and substance use services to all county residents, regardless of their insurance type, severity of need, or ability to pay.

Crisis response

Millage-funded staff expansions have allowed WCCMH to respond to 800 more crisis service requests in first six months of 2019--from January to June--than the agency did during the same time frame last year.

Crisis response team members rush out in pairs to offer rapid response following community requests. They meet residents wherever they are and offer immediate assessment and support to individuals who might be experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Many of our county’s 911 crisis calls are fueled or exacerbated by mental health and substance use concerns," says Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton .

"Over the last six months the sheriff's office has been able to reach out to the CARES team to ask behavioral health counselors and peer-support specialists to join our deputy sheriffs in response to managing behavioral health crisis in our community. We’re tremendously grateful to Washtenaw County residents for making that possible.”

Community care and crisis prevention

WCCMH's millage-funded outpatient team has also seen a significant expansion in service capacity over the last several months.

Between May 1, when WCCMH officially extended outpatient services to residents across the county, and July 1--a two-month period--the team received 250 referrals for individuals aged 8 through 77. More than one-quarter of these referrals (25.8 percent) were for teens and young adults.

"Outpatient services are critical," says WCCMH Program Administrator Melisa Tasker . "They can help to mitigate or prevent a crisis by providing immediate mental health care including case management, individual and group therapy, peer support, and psychiatric services."

Since May 1, CARES staff have not only helped prevent crises through traditional behavioral health care, they have also helped prevent them by securing housing for clients; providing transportation to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; helping opioid-dependent clients find and enroll in medication-assisted treatment programs; and more.

With gratitude

"The CARES team is the best improvement to the county's mental health system in the last decade," says Dr. Raymond Rion, Executive Director, Packard Health . "The patients we care for at Packard Health and in our county have already benefited from the additional expertise and resources CARES has brought to the community. This is an excellent use of millage dollars and is improving care in vitally important ways."

"Before our community mental health system could only serve residents with Medicaid, so others--some with severe mental health and substance use needs--couldn't access our services," says Tasker. "Now, thanks to Washtenaw County voters, we can serve residents with all types of insurance and get them the care they need."

" Commissioner Andy LaBarre got the millage proposal in front of the County Commissioners and on the ballot," says WCCMH Director Trish Cortes . "We're so thankful for his help kicking this off, for the taxpayer's support last fall, and for the chance to provide this level of service to a county that has needed it for quite some time."
Plan and integrate
Meet the Millage Advisory Committee
Washtenaw County Community Mental Health has established a new Millage Advisory Committee (MAC) to provide strategic oversight on millage activities and investments. The 13-member committee, chaired by St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea President and CEO Nancy Graebner, held its first meeting on June 10 at the Washtenaw County Learning Resource Center in Ann Arbor. 

The June and July MAC meetings focused on reviewing millage funding recommendations and early implementation progress, providing input on a strategic communications plan to keep residents apprised of millage-funded activities, and discussing grant guidelines for community-based organizations to request funding for new initiatives. Read more.
SUD Systems Transformation
Since November 2018, dozens of representatives from Washtenaw-area organizations--including one-dozen staff members from Washtenaw County Community Mental Health--have been participating in a substance use disorder system transformation process hosted by the Washtenaw Health Initiative. The goal? To dramatically improve the county’s SUD prevention and treatment system by identifying system barriers and weaknesses and then collectively working to overcome them. 

Six full-day convenings were held over a six-month period, and at the final transformation convening, which took place at Dawn Farm in Ypsilanti this May, seven cross-agency teams agreed to participate in a 100-day challenge to kick off the work and build momentum. Each team developed an agreed-upon series of action steps that members would take over the summer to begin the work. The groups will reconvene this fall to share progress.  Read more. 
Underfunding and deficit reduction
Due to underfunding by the state and federal government of Michigan’s community mental health system—behavioral health services for low-income individuals and those with severe and persistent mental illnesses, emotional disturbances, and developmental disabilities—the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has asked Washtenaw County Community Mental Health for a deficit-reduction plan to address the 2020 budget shortfall (the fiscal year begins on October 1), which is currently projected at approximately $10 million.
Washtenaw County Community Mental Health and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners have been working on a deficit reduction plan that will protect client services, including traditional WCCMH services and the new and planned services made possible by the county’s Public Safety and Mental Health Millage. The millage revenue cannot be used to supplant medically necessary and mandated Medicaid services. However, millage funds can be used to support some portion of the work CMH is doing to plan, manage, evaluate, and report on millage investments and millage-funded initiatives. The County Commissioners will vote on the CMH budget proposal in early September.
The Whitmer Administration is trying to get a supplemental appropriation for state mental health services, and Washtenaw County is one of many counties involved in litigation with the state over mental health funding. Learn more.

Expand services
Rural service delivery
As of July 1, the CARES team had received 250 outpatient service referrals from Ypsilanti (115), Ann Arbor (88), Saline (11), Dexter (6), Whitmore Lake (5), Chelsea (3), and Milan (3).

While most of the referrals are currently coming from the county's urban areas, there continues to be unmet need in the county's rural communities, where residents may lack transportation to travel to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti for care.

To meet this need, CARES team staff members have begun to place staff in Dexter at the St. Joseph Mercy behavioral health outpatient facility (Thursdays) and in Chelsea at the St. Joseph Mercy behavioral health outpatient facility (Fridays).

Over the next several months, the CARES team will also place staff in Manchester (on Tuesdays) and Whitmore Lake (on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Memoranda of understanding with facilities in these townships are currently in development.

To learn more about rural service delivery times and locations, and to schedule an appointment, contact WCCMH's 24/7 hotline at 734-544-3050 or 800-440-7548.
New therapeutic groups forming
Thanks to millage funding, our CARES team staff members are offering four new group therapy options for Washtenaw County residents. These groups are for everyone in the community--regardless of insurance or severity of need. Additional groups will be added in the months ahead.

Seeking Safety Group: Mondays, 3:30 - 5:00 pm: This group, for women who have experienced trauma and addiction, introduces 25 key concepts such as “PTSD: Taking Back Your Power,” “Setting Boundaries in Relationships,” and “Taking Good Care of Yourself.”  Location: Hope Clinic, 418 Harriet Street, Ypsilanti, MI

TREM Group: Wednesdays, 2:30 - 4:30 pm: This group is focused on helping women become stronger and move forward in life. Topics include self-esteem, setting limits, self-soothing, and more. Please note that this group will close to new members after the first few sessions. Location: Washtenaw County Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI

DBT Group: Wednesdays, 3:00 - 4:30 pm: DBT is an evidence-based psychotherapy that has proven useful in treating a variety of behavioral health needs. The group will discover coping skills such as “Emotion Regulation,” “Distress Tolerance," “Acceptance,” and “Mindfulness.” Location: Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, 2140 East Ellsworth Road, Ann Arbor, MI

Co-Occurring Group: Thursdays, 1:30 - 3:00 pm: This group, for men and women with mental health and substance use needs, covers a range of topics including “Changing Self-Defeating Behavior,” “Abstinence v. Moderation,” “Triggers and Craving,” and “High Risk Situations.” Location: Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, 555 Towner Street, Ypsilanti, MI
More to come
Additional service expansions, as recommended by the Community Mental Health Advisory Committee, will be required going forward. These will include community outreach programs, youth treatment and prevention services, substance use treatment and prevention programs, supportive housing services, and other supports. Washtenaw County Community Mental Health will be seeking proposals from qualified community organizations that wish to provide these services.
Communicate, educate, engage
Youth stigma
In our last millage communication, WCCMH introduced readers to planned anti-stigma campaign efforts that are being led, through a millage-funded contract, by the Washtenaw County Health Department. The first two years of this anti-stigma work will focus on Washtenaw County’s youth, and we are happy to report that the Youth Mental Health Campaign team has been rapidly moving these efforts forward.

Representatives from the Washtenaw County Health Department spent the summer asking residents what mental health means to their communities and what they hoped to see in a campaign. Emma Share , the health department’s Youth Mental Health Campaign outreach intern, reports that the team received feedback from more than 300 community members through community conversations, focus groups, and an online survey.

  • Read about the Washtenaw County Youth Mental Health Campaign's outreach efforts--which included youth, adult, and parent conversations in Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Ypsilanti, and Superior Township--in the summary document or full outreach report.

The team also looked at themes and findings from recent My Voice text-based polls--which collect open-ended anonymous responses from Washtenaw County youth--to better understand how mental health stigma is impacting Washtenaw County youth.

Based on research and community conversations, the Washtenaw County Health Department is proposing a countywide Wish You Knew campaign that aims to address the disconnect between youth and adults by promoting regular and open communications about mental health. Campaign elements would include artwork, pocket cards, magnets, video storytelling, and promotional activities. Read more.
High schools invited to apply for UMatter Week grants
Washtenaw County high schools are encouraged to apply for $500 to $5,000 awards, based on student population.

Completed applications are due to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District by October 1.
This August, the Millage Advisory Committee approved a funding application from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to support "U Matter Week" activities at all interested Washtenaw County high schools.

UMatter Week focuses on positivity and strength as a mechanism for a culture shift in schools. It is not brought into schools by outside organizations, but is instead planned and implemented by students, teachers, and staff at each school with support in the form of peer learning collaborative events that help community members plan activities that make sense for their school's unique environment and culture.

Washtenaw County Community Mental Health, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, and Friendship Circle will present the grant opportunity and distribute applications during the September 13 meeting of Washtenaw high school principals.
And remember
If you or someone you know needs support
Contact us 24/7 at 734-544-3050 or 1-800-440-7548