Public Forum on Behavioral Health Privatization & Funding, Sept. 22, 2016 – Royal Oak, MI
I’m Mark Reinstein, from the Mental Health Association in Michigan, the state’s oldest advocacy group for persons experiencing mental illness. I’m also part of the statewide mental health-and-justice coalition known as Michigan Partners in Crisis.
The most helpful thing I can probably do tonight is give you a report from the front lines in Lansing.
In February, the Governor proposed that all CMH Medicaid clients and funding be turned over to the state’s 11 Medicaid HMOs by September 2017. When the Governor’s privatization proposal (which had never been discussed with consumers, families and advocates) resulted in a flood of complaints to legislators, Lt. Governor Calley decided to form a workgroup on the issue. He appointed 120 people to it.
The workgroup met five times, ending in June. The workgroup rejected the Governor’s proposal and made 28 recommendations for structural and operational matters in publicly funded health care. Included were some things that have been very important to consumers and families for years; for example, open access to Medicaid mental health medications; independent mechanisms for judging consumer and family complaints; improved person-centered planning processes; greater uniformity of practices and procedures across CMH programs; and reducing the layers of bureaucracy and duplication we have in publicly funded behavioral health care.
In July, the Department of Health & Human Services pulled in a small group of people to start looking at next steps, as a report to the Legislature is due January 15. It became obvious to advocates on the new group that the department had little interest in what the Calley Workgroup produced. The advocacy groups came within a millimeter of dropping out of the new workgroup, but the Lt. Governor intervened and fixed some things, and the advocacy groups have remained so far.
Instead of concentrating on critical policy and funding issues, the new workgroup has focused solely to date on new types of public meetings the department wants. One type would be for consumers and families; another would be for service providers; and a third for service payers. None of these has been scheduled yet, and I’m not optimistic about what they’ll produce.
Once those forums are done, the department’s workgroup will have a short amount of time to attempt developing recommendations for the report to the Legislature. I am not optimistic that the report will yield meaningful and effective steps for moving publicly funded health care forward in a positive manner that is beneficial to consumers and families.
We are in a precarious position, and no one knows how it will turn out. But I’m not giving up, and no one here tonight should give up either. There is still time for your voices to be heard. Please use those voices.