Mental Health Effort Underway in Midland

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By Sharon Mortensen

In January of 2017, the mental health services and gaps committee officially launched a plan to address mental health needs in Midland County.  Reasons for the focus on mental health include:

  • In 2016, 798 Midland County students in grades 6-12 reported attempting suicide.
  • Half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives.
  • National statistics indicate 12% of older adults are depressed and account for 20% of suicides each year.

Other local statistics on suicide attempts or deaths due to suicide provided additional reasons for developing a community plan. Over 25 organizations were involved in putting this plan together. The plan has been incorporated into the Midland County Community Health Improvement Plan which outlines efforts to deal with four health concerns: (1) substance use disorder, (2) later life quality, (3) healthy weight and (4) mental health.

The Health and Human Services Council recently heard an update on the mental health efforts underway. The mental health team is working on six areas.

Online mental health portal

A new online resource called the Hope Portal will improve information and referral for mental health services. This portal will be powered by 211. The primary purpose is to be the reliable entry point for those who are seeking information and resources related to mental health needs. This new resource will launch in February of 2018. Extensive work in collecting and vetting available mental health services has been underway.

Suicide prevention

Looking at best practices on suicide prevention has been a focus of the team. With the awareness that about 77% of youth who commit suicide visit their primary care physician in the previous year and 45% of those had contact within 1 month prior to their death, the team is working to ensure that individuals who are at risk for suicide are properly screened for suicide at every health encounter and that an effective process for on-going intervention is in place. Routine screening for depression, anxiety, and suicide is now in place. A pilot for providing behavioral health in a medical practice is being investigated for the upcoming year.

Jail diversion for those with mental illness

The team is working to divert people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system when appropriate. The goal is to increase the percentage of people with mental illness and intellectual/ developmental disabilities in jail being referred to the right services and supports. Midland County is starting a Crisis Intervention Training program which will help law enforcement in responding to situations and provide ongoing support and training. The first training is scheduled for May 2018. This model has proven to be very effective in other communities.

Mental health services in the schools

Increasing mental health services in the schools has been a major focus over the past year. Many achievements have taken place including:

  • Providing mental health training for over 100 school professionals including Mental Health First Aid and Advanced Mental Health Training and mindfulness training for teachers
  • Piloting MindUp Curriculum teaching mindfulness and self-regulation skills to 3rd graders
  • Starting Cognitive Behavioral Mindfulness Groups for high school students who are struggling with anxiety and depression
  • Implementing Positive Alternatives to School Suspensions (PASS) for middle school students
  • Implementing a system of wraparound care and intervention for high-risk youth
  • Training school counselors in use of tool to help determine level of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk
  • Increasing the visibility of the OK2Say program which is a confidential hotline for reporting possible threats including violence and suicide

Through these efforts, school professionals know how to respond effectively to youth with mental health problems and youth have greater resources available to them.

Public awareness/communication

Raising awareness, educating our community about mental health issues, and keeping residents up to date on health and suicide services available in our community is the focus of this goal. The mental health team wants our community to better understand the issue and available resources. Presentations to community groups and press releases to various media outlets have been done in the past year.

Research advisory council

During 2017, a Mental Health Research Advisory Committee has been formed. This group meets monthly and provides feedback for mental health programs, research or media campaigns developed by the group or targeted for Midland County. They are also working to identify and/or apply for other research grants to support improving mental health in our community.

Through their efforts to work in these six areas, the mental health services and gaps team is working to improve practices, offer resources and provide needed services to the Midland County community. Updates on goals for 2018 and a complete list of 2017 accomplishments will be provided at a community update on January 24, 2018.

Agency cooperation helps families dealing with child abuse

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By Ann Fillmore
Executive Director, United Way of Midland County

The Midland County Health and Human Services Council recently heard a presentation from Midland County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Dorene Allen, Elizabeth Kline, Community Mental Health (CMH) Supervisor and Brian Millikin Director of the Midland/Gladwin Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding their collaborative partnership in handling child abuse and neglect in Midland County. 

Child abuse and neglect crosses all socioeconomic classes and happens to seemingly ordinary people in all walks of life.  The greatest myth is that the dangers to children come from strangers.  In most cases, the perpetrator is someone the parent or child knows, and is often trusted by the child and family.

Complaints of child abuse/neglect are referred through the Michigan Centralized Intake line at 855-444-3911.  Basic information is gathered and a screening is completed to determine if the allegations meet the definition of abuse/neglect.  Those that meet the definition are assigned to the local DHHS office for investigation.  DHHS requires a complete investigation of the allegations within 30 days. Depending on the rating of the investigation, a variety of DHHS services are provided to improve the family situation and they try, as much as possible, to have the child(ren) remain in the home.  Collaboration with community partners and service providers is a key part of success. 

A host of community services are available such as: parenting education, Community Mental Health services, DHHS Homemaker services, contracted counseling, Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency- Families First, or other home services, domestic violence services and collaboration with special education teachers/parapros/administration, where applicable. 

At this point, the hope is that the services offered have been successful and a DHHS case can be closed.  If the family is non-compliant or based on the severity of the allegation, DHHS may file a petition with the Court to request the Court’s jurisdiction and oversight.

Judge Allen also discussed Baby Court, a great illustration of the collaboration between the Court, DHHS and CMH which focuses on abused and neglected children 0-3 years old.  28% of the Court’s Abuse/Neglect caseload is comprised of children 0-3 years old and 65% of the parents in these cases end-up either releasing their parental rights or have them voluntarily terminated.  Many of these issues are cyclical and a generational pattern is noted.  The premise of Baby Court is to have the community rally around a family so that it can become intact and healthy.  The key goals are to ensure that the babies are thriving and reaching developmental goals, are able to develop healthy bonds with caregivers, and to reduce and prevent the cycle of child abuse/neglect.  Typically, Baby Court has much fewer placement changes for these children as a result of the intensive services. 

Ann Fillmore, Executive Director of United Way of Midland County, serves as a member of the Midland County Health & Human Services Council.  The HHSC promotes excellence in the delivery of health and human services through the collective efforts of 27 key community leaders with a shared vision for solving community challenges.  Its membership fosters collaboration and cooperation among social service agencies, education, health care, business, the faith-based community, the courts, law enforcement and local government.