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Michael Vizena

Michael Vizena

Mental Health Needs a Seat at Governor Snyder’s Table

January 31, 2014

Governor Rick Snyder said in his recent State of the State address that there is a “surplus” in the state’s budget. He compared the situation to “a big family of ten million people, and we should all be sitting around the kitchen table”. He asked those people who are sitting at this table to “be smart about how we handle this situation”. Snyder continued to say that we should “try to stay focused on making sure we’re being fiscally responsible, not just for us, but for our children, but let’s also work hard to say where it goes, and it should go to those hard-working folk”.

Well here is the Public Service Announcement to say “Don’t Forget Us!” Persons with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders comprise the most vulnerable population in our state. The people we serve are in need of programmatic resources, housing, education, and jobs. If you are looking for an area to “invest” surplus tax dollars, We got it.

Invest in Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens

Through the Healthy Michigan Plan, improving the health of all Michigan citizens is finally within our reach. The public mental health system is committed to the effective implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan. We can only do so with adequate and promised support.

Our first suggestion costs no additional money. Implementation of Healthy Michigan does not need to disrupt existing service delivery and do harm to persons currently receiving services. If General Fund dollars are removed from the public mental health system before financing of the Healthy Michigan Plan is in place, the community service providers will not have sufficient resources to serve those currently being served. Needless disruptions of needed services will only increase costs to our state and to those most vulnerable we are committed to serve. As partners, we can remove the General Fund support used for service delivery as it is replaced by federal Healthy Michigan funding. As they say, timing is everything. If you remove General Fund dollars before federal funds are in place to replace them. serious and potentially deadly consequences are likely to arise.

Our second suggestion is funding for new priority populations. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and the Mental Health and Wellness Commission issued their thoughtful bi-partisan report last week that emphasized the need to increase our commitment to mental health and wellness, improving access to services and eliminating the stigma that is often a barrier to people getting the assistance they need. The report also declared those who have faithfully served our country and those who are homeless within our state are priority populations to serve. Thank you! Long overdue!

Lastly, expand funding for communities that demonstrate and sustain full community participation of those we serve. Well beyond access to services and integrated healthcare funding, opportunities to expand safe and affordable community housing, transportation and jobs are needed throughout our state.

Governor Snyder if you are looking for people to sit at your table as you prepare for next week’s budget address: We represent those hard-working people you spoke of, we support the children you mentioned, we care for the seniors in need of supports, we salute the veterans in need of jobs and we support the homeless in need of housing. Community Mental Health organizations and their providers from around the state represent the hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities who need your help and assistance – and would like a seat at ”the kitchen table”.

The governor says he wants to “invest in people”. We applaud the efforts taken thus far and we look forward to sitting at the “kitchen table” as Michigan’s future is mapped out.

Budgets are a statement of our values as a state. Providing adequate support to our families, veterans, neighbors and friends with serious mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders as the economy improves is a worthy investment.

Michael Vizena is the executive director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards (MACMHB), the statewide association of forty six (46) community mental health boards and 77 affiliate provider agency members from throughout the state.

January 30, 2014 · Filed under Michael Vizena

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jill // Jan 31, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I so agree with this and I believe the focus of the populations that can benefit is what Michigan can be all about!

  • 2 Dennis Grimski // Feb 1, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Mr. Vizena speaks on behalf of those most in need. I can only hope the vulnerable and the disabled are offered a seat at the Govenor’s table. This is a powerful article, and I can only hope mental health has a table seat vs. a back row seat.

  • 3 Jeff Brown // Feb 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    I am assuming this is a pot luck. The metro region will bring a dish to pass!
    Thanks Mike!

  • 4 Leigh Wayna, LMSW // Feb 3, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I applaud Mr. Vizena for making this statement! It is time that we (human services professionals, the folks we serve) had a voice, a STRONG voice, at that table and it is time that we got to share in the meal, not just eat the scraps that are leftover.

  • 5 Tanes Moore, MA LLP // Feb 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

    How we as a society treat those most in need is a reflection on our society. Allowing people to starve, and go without basic needs is not OK. Not when we have the resources to prevent this. Taking care of the mentally ill is very important. Not just for their well being, but for our neighborhoods and society. How many times must some untreated mentally ill person shoots up a school, movie therater, campus before we take the treatment of mentaly ill people seriously.

    In any event, the surplus should not be handed back to the tax payers. Pres. Bush did that on a national level and now the US is in serious debt. Holding on to the money for a “rainy day” should not be left out as an option.

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