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GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY: 'Historic' investment in mental health

The Record-Eagle - 12/7/2023

Dec. 7—TRAVERSE CITY — Creating in-patient beds for people in a mental health crisis is critical, said mental health advocate Kate Dahlstrom.

"We've simply got to make this a priority," Dahlstrom said. "Right now, a behavior health crisis is the second most common reason for a visit to the emergency department. We are desperately lacking in psychiatric care beds here in northern Michigan, particularly for youth. How many people spend overnight in the emergency department because of this shortage? Far too many!"

Dahlstrom, a retired CPA by profession, addressed Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday when the board unanimously passed a long-anticipated $5 million funding package for a new Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness.

"We're very excited this is all coming together," said Laura Glenn, chief operating officer for Munson Healthcare. "There's definitely a need in our area for expanded mental healthcare services and we are moving quickly to get it done."

Munson is part of a collaborative focused on providing more comprehensive mental health services in the area. Other members of the collaborative include: the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority, the Northern Michigan Regional Entity, Northwest Michigan Community Health Innovation Region, Grand Traverse County and United Way of Northwest Michigan

The center's new director, yet to be named, will be a Northern Lakes employee. A community advisory group formed during the design phase will continue to provide input directly to CMH leaders, Glenn said, adding that the new center will emphasize financial and operational transparency.

County money allocated for the center comes from funds provided by the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal grant program signed in 2021. In addition, Munson has received a separate $5 million grant to expand mental health services to youth in crisis, including the provision of in-patient residential beds.

For its part, Northern Lakes received a $1.8 million federal appropriation to support their Adult Crisis Residential Unit planned for Phase 3 and an additional $3 million state appropriation for Adult Crisis Stabilization and Youth Crisis Stabilization units.

All sources combined, this may be the biggest investment in mental health in the area's history, county officials said.

Phase I of the project, a temporary relocation of existing services to the Copper Ridge medical complex, has already begun. Subsequent phases include a major renovation at 401 Brook Street on the campus of Munson Medical Center in Traverse City.

When completed in late 2024, this will bring mental health, substance use disorder and crisis services under a single roof, said Munson officials. "This coordinated approach represents best practices in caring for children, families, seniors, and citizens of all ages, regardless of insurance or ability to pay."

While Munson is serving as the fiduciary for the ARPA funds, Glenn emphasized that Northern Lakes will provide the majority of the mental health services at the new center.

Year-end business

In a year-end rush Wednesday, Grand Traverse County Board of Commissioners approved a raft of changes and funding requests, including:

* A $97,000 outlay for a new electronic policy system from Lexipol Solutions to be used by the Sheriff's Office. The annual maintenance fee starting in 2025 will be about $31,000;

* $50,000 for a new digital camera monitoring system for a portion of the county jail that does not currently have camera coverage. They deferred action on a proposed $370,000 upgrade to the overall jail camera system, which would provide much higher resolution video footage;

* And a 2023 payment of $51,000 for new food preparation equipment in the jail's kitchen. Some of the current equipment is more than 22 years old and finding replacement parts is almost impossible, Jail Administrator Chris Barsheff said.

* The board went into a closed session at noon to discuss collective bargaining issues, then reconvened to discuss the Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) board.

* Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting at 9 a.m. next Wednesday to finalize the 2024 budget.


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