Mental Health Transportation Needs Reform to Work for the Upper Peninsula

HOUGHTON – The city of Houghton tabled further discussions to a later date, when talking about the addition of a Mental Health subcommittee for the city. At city council last week, Portage Health Foundation’s Executive Director, Kevin Store, discussing complicated issues when it comes to mental health support in the community, facility availability and how law enforcement’s roles change when responding to a mental health call.

Our municipal representation; Chief Donnelly, Officer Roberts, Michigan State Police, and County Sheriffs. They’re present with the work these organizations are doing, and I think that’s something that maybe needs to be stated. There’s a presence there, they’re all in the conversation. I know people that have been trying to find services for their children that are on Blue Cross Blue Shield or are willing to private pay. They have a difficulty finding providers, whether it be licensed counselors, psychiatry, especially anybody that’s specializing in pediatrics.” – Kevin Store, PHF Executive Director

Senator Ed McBroom understands the difficulties UP residents go through to find proper mental health treatment in need. McBroom said that if beds are full in local facilities, local officers will have to transport patients as far south as the Indiana boarder. But reforms may be on the way as one bill for mental health transportation has found its way out of committee.

“It’s unfortunate, the system needs reforms, Ive been working on this for 10 years. Right now, Senate Bill 101 is out of committee. And it would allow our local communities to contract with an actual medical providers, transporters. Similar to what Wisconsin does. To bring people down to a facility that they need. To keep our law enforcement in the communities, where they’re supposed to be. It would avoid all the overtime that goes into both the people driving the car, and and those filling in the gaps, back in our communities.” – Sen. Ed McBroom, 38th District

The challenge of proper mental health treatment and transportation in the Upper Peninsula is a complicated topic. And one that can not be solved with a single piece of legislation. But Senate Bill 101 is a step forward to help patients and law enforcement gain easier access to facilities and transport those closer to home.