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Michigan lawmakers consider creating 24/7 mental health hotline

jaeyeon choi

Michigan could soon have a statewide hotline to connect people with mental health issues with resources to help them.

Under legislation in the state house, residents in need of mental health services could call a 24/7 hotline to be connected with local providers.

Republican State Representative Mary Whiteford is a bill sponsor.

“The first time somebody reaches out for help we need to get them connected. If you don’t answer and respond and help them at that first point they may never ask for help again.”

Whiteford said the idea for the hotline came from her own experience trying to get someone connected to services.

“I called a local hotline and they said ‘is she on medicaid’ and I said no. They asked if she was suicidal and I said no but I knew there was trouble. They said ‘we’re sorry we can’t help you.’”

Eventually, Whiteford said she was directed to an emergency room which she knew was not the right place for the person to go. Later, she talked about the experience with other people.

“And then as I brought it up more and more across the state I found local providers that would have taken care of this person in 48 hours. And I’m like wow, what can we do to try and connect local providers with people who need help?”

Whiteford said the hotline could expand on existing information and crisis networks, such as community health crisis hotlines or 2-1-1.

Under the legislation the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services would work with a contractor to operate and maintain the hotline.

Whiteford said the hotline will take anywhere from one to two million dollars annually to operate.

The legislation has passed out of the Senate. It’s awaiting final approval in the House before it can be sent to Governor Whitmer.