West Michigan provider reacts to Governor Whitmer's call to expand mental health services
During the State of the State address, Governor Whitmer announced continued investment and expansion of access to mental health care. For one of West Michigan’s largest providers, it’s welcomed support as the pandemic increases demand for services.
A Kaiser Family Foundation study released in early 2021found that pre-pandemic, one-in-four people complained of symptoms of depression or anxiety.
“During the pandemic, we’re at 40%. So, 10% to 40% is a huge jump.”
Scott Halstead is Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Vice President of Outpatient and Recovery Services.
“It’s been difficult for mental health teams to keep up.”
Pine Rest has about 350 clinical staff caring for 42,000 outpatient clients. Halstead says it could hire 40 more and keep them busy.
Pre-pandemic, patients could be seen by a therapist within a week. The added stressors associated with the pandemic has increased demand. Today, it may take up to 45 days for a routine appointment. Crisis situations require immediate attention.
Halstead points out mental health issues, depression in particular, is one of the most expensive costs to businesses.
“Now you have a larger societal problem and that’s an expensive problem and there are not enough clinical staff to do the work. You know, if an organization our size has to struggle to get people in, in a reasonable time, a week is a good time, a month is not a good time. Then you can see where a governor would want to work hard to get enough resources to provide care to the community.”
Halstead explains the staff is burning out trying to meet the demand. A large number entering retirement age. Retaining and recruiting new professionals to the field, Governor Whitmer is expanding the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program for behavioral health providers. Last year, the governor proposed investing $1.4 billion in the MI Healthy Communities plan investing in local public health with a $335 million commitment to behavioral and substance use disorder treatment.