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Providers coming together to improve access, care for kids with mental health disorders

portrait of Lawrence Burns against a brick wall
Michigan Radio

Michigan's mental health care system isn't getting children the  help they need. 

The causes are varied  –  from a shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists to the social stigma around getting treated for mental illness  – but many providers, parents, and advocates say we're reaching a crisis point. 

Now, some providers are trying to collaborate on solutions. 

Lawrence Burns is president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Foundation.

Burns says the real-world consequences of these shortcomings play out in the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, where around 15 to 20 young people enter the emergency room in mental health “crisis mode” every day.

The lack of in-patient psychiatric care means that these kids often stay in that emergency room for days — sometimes even weeks — while seeking care for treatable mental and behavioral health issues. 

“There’s not enough places for these children to go to for the type of longer-term care they need,” Burns said.

A new coalition of organizations and advocates wants to change that. It’s called the Michigan Advocates for Youth Behavioral Health, and it’s made up of a range of “frontline service providers,” as well as administrators in the healthcare field. 

The goal of the coalition, Burns says, is to create opportunities for these organizations to work together to improve mental healthcare for children in the state of Michigan. One of their first initiatives is an upcoming summit, where professionals will gather to cover a range of topics related to children’s behavioral health.

“We’re going to have topics such as trauma, suicide, depression, anxiety, and a whole gambit of things,” Burns said. The summit will also address the connection between mental health and susceptibility to addiction.

Listen above to hear more about the coalition's goals, and what Burns thinks of a recent increase in funding for mental health in schools. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this photo had an incorrect caption identifying Lawrence Burns as the CEO of the Children's Hospital of Michigan. Burns is the CEO of the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation, as stated in the post. The caption has been corrected above. 

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