This story appears courtesy of MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 passed early this morning includes funds to expand adult and child mental health services and programs, and opens the door to a restructuring of dental benefits in the state, among a cornucopia of historic funding.

Rep. Mary Whitford (R-Casco Twp.), chair of the House DHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, and Michigan Association of Health Plans Executive Director Dominick Pallone hailed the funding as a great investment into the health of Michiganders.

“MDHHS is thankful for improvements in access to affordable, high-quality dental services for Michiganders, raising rates for foster, adoptive, and guardian providers and investments in community organizations that provide direct support to families. Congrats to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature for passing a balanced, bi-partisan budget,” MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin said.

Whiteford highlighted the $325 million in funding going toward the creation of a new psychiatric hospital, $41 million to add 56 beds and 87 full-time positions to the Hawthorn Center, and $223 million in funding being directed toward several private sector mental health facilities, such as Pine Rest, U of M Medicine and McLaren Northern Michigan, to help expand access for children and adults.
There is also a $1.1 million expansion for eight more administrative jobs at state psychiatric hospitals.

Whiteford said the mental health expansion across the state would hopefully be generationally changing, and the $32 million to go toward crisis stabilization units, which are like mental health emergency units, spread across the state.

“No person should be traveling more than an hour and a half to be able to get the care they need. In the more populated areas, it’s more like 30 minutes, even in the Upper Peninsula,” she said.

If people are still having problems finding a bed at a mental health facility or need mental help, Whiteford said the budget put $3 million to fund the Michigan Crisis and Access Line, or MiCAL, which she dubbed the 988 hotline.

“I remember saying to my mom, ‘Mom, what if anybody could call a hotline and find somebody who is local who can help?,’ an emergency room nurse or police officer, and find out where there is a psychiatric bed in the state,” she said.

She said it was three years in the making and would be rolled out by the end of the year. She said Oakland County and the U.P. piloted the program over the last year and the budget would expand it across the state.

“It truly is the most expansive hotline in the country,” she said. “So that’s probably my biggest source of pride.”

In connection with the mental health, several drug programs received an increase in funding, including the Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund that saw an increase from the opioid settlements and $1 million going to Families Against Narcotics.

“That early intervention for mental illness, anxiety and depression that leads to substance use disorder is really important,” Whiteford said.

There is $10 million in funding going toward behavioral health programs at universities across the state to help train the people who would fill the jobs for the psychiatric centers, crisis stabilization units and the 988 hotline.

“It’s become the cool career,” Whiteford said.

She also lauded the $34.5 million in one-time funding for mental health programs for places like Easter Seals and the Salvation Army Safe Harbor. She said getting the funding for many of the mental health programs was a lot of work.

“It’s something to help my colleagues understand the big pictures of what I was trying to accomplish with these recommendations. It wasn’t just like throwing up fairy dust and everything was going to get better,” Whiteford said.

The budget included a $5.1 million Medicaid Mental Health match for local services for mild to moderate health needs. Pallone said he would like to see further reform to the Medicaid program in the mental health arena.

“We’d love to see a greater integration approach and would like to provide for the needs regardless of severity of care,” Pallone said.

Whiteford was excited to see so much money go toward mental and physical health of children, a sentiment echoed by School Community Health Alliance of Michigan Executive Director Debbie Brinson.

“We are overjoyed to announce the funding for school-based health centers in this budget will move many Michigan kids off waitlists for mental health services and allow them to be screened and treated by health care professionals, without having to leave school,” Brinson said.

She said up to 100 more centers would be created in Michigan with the funding provided.

“The increase in capacity to help our most vulnerable residents will help boost Michigan’s population of strong, resilient children who are ready to meet personal and academic challenged,” Brinson said.

Child Welfare Services will see a $10.5 million increase.

Foster care services and families will get over $50 million more in funding, and the budget sets aside $2 million for tax credits for people who want to adopt.

Pallone was excited to see the $132.5 million in resources going to improve Medicaid reimbursement and the $85.1 million to improve access to dental care for those on the program. He said $30 million of that would be given during a restructure of dental benefits.

“Our members are looking forward to participating with the department helping to reshape and restructure that dental benefit so that beneficiaries can have their whole health care needs served,” he said.

He also said the increase in Medicaid reimbursement was very important coming out of the pandemic to made sure providers are “being paid an adequate rate” while they get childhood immunization rates back up and make sure preventative care visits go back to pre-pandemic levels.

Pallone also said members of the health plan association were glad to see the $341 million perennial adjustment made to the actuarial soundness adjustment for several covered health plans.

“That’s made in order to keep our rates adequate,” he said.

With the pandemic pause to Medicaid and Medicare funding coming to an end in September, the budget also saw a reduction in the amount the state and federal government would be putting into those programs. The gross reduction to the traditional Medicaid cost adjustment would be $566 million and the gross reduction to the Healthy Michigan Plan cost adjustment would be $421 million.

Other pieces of the MDHHS budget to get a boost include $4.2 million in funding to the diaper assistance program, which distributes diapers to organizations and the needy across the state, and an increase of $2 million to the 211 hot line that connects people with essential services.

A one-time community services project is giving $6 million to help the homeless find houses.

MDHHS has the largest budget of all the state agencies and oversees a $33.4 billion gross budget.

“Congrats to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature for passing a balanced, bi-partisan budget,” Sutfin said.