Washtenaw County commissioners voted Thursday night to recommend Community Mental Health (CMH) cut its budget. The county has more than a $10 million budget shortfall for mental health funding.
The Commissioners' vote does not make cuts to CMH's direct services to patients. Jason Morgan chairs the board. He says the county has been able to keep those services.
“We found money, we found money by pulling every rock we possibly could and tipping it over. And pulling money from other departments and looking at additional state revenue to protect services. So, I think we've addressed the concerns that are most in need,” Morgan said.
The special meeting had standing room only for community members. Colin and Dawn Northrup are community members that spoke at the meeting.
“I’m hoping they don’t cut the front-line services without cutting some from administration, because I have a feeling that if they do that, the feelings that are on both sides with be made only worse,” Colin Northrup said.
The board says the state has systematically under-funded critical mental health services. However, a lack of mental health funding is a statewide problem. There are necessary services counties must provide to Medicaid patients. The problem is there is not enough money to fund those services.
Kevin Fischer is the Executive Director at the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Michigan. Fisher says “statewide there is an ongoing issue with underfunding from the Department of Health and Human Services down to the Community Mental Health departments like Washtenaw County. This is a known problem, this is not something the State Department of Health and Human Services is unaware of. It’s literally affecting every CMH in the state.”
“We need the state to give us more resources to provide these services. We have a value set in our county that demands a high level of services because people need it. We hope the state will hear that message and we're going to continue our advocacy,” Morgan said.
Those affected are medicaid eligible people. “It is literally our most vulnerable population. It is the poorest of our population. And it’s the people who are most in need of behavioural health services,” Fisher said.
The CMH board will now draft a budget from the recommendations. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners will approve the final budge on or before October 1st. Morgan says it needs to be balanced.