Every two years, with the approval of the MHAM Board of Directors, MHAM establishes a list of advocacy priorities and/or initiatives that it seeks to pursue over the next legislative session. Our Partners in Crisis mental-health-and-justice coalition also develops initiatives annually (with this year’s to be set mid-January).
Between MHAM and PIC, we’ll have about 20 public policy initiatives to begin work on in early January. Seven of these initiatives require legislative changes for them to be realized. These initiatives are focused on the public mental health system:
- Make the office of recipient rights a separate and autonomous entity so that the recipient rights staff for each of the CMHSPS do not report to the Executive Director of the CMHSP. MHAM believes what we have now is a conflict-of-interest, and the recipient rights system should be separate from the CMHSPS.
- Advance a mediation option in the recipient rights process that allows for mediation to occur at the any point in the process after which a rights complaint has been filed. This includes advancing the dispute resolution process as recommended in the Section 298 work group. MHAM also worked with other members of the advocacy community to add mediation to the front end of the recipient rights complaint process. The recipient rights system is part of the public mental health system and is intended to ensure that persons served have certain rights protections. HB 5625 was prevented from advancing through the legislative process due to opposition from representatives from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (BHDDA).
- Stimulate a standard statewide definition of severity-of-condition for recipients of services from the public mental health system. MHAM will continue to pursue legislative changes to the Mental Health Code that provide for more specificity for the types of diagnoses that give access to mental health services. CMHSPS are required to prioritize the “most severe forms” of mental illness and emotional disorder, but there is no standard, statewide definition of what these are. The House CARES Task Force was with us on this issue.
- Revise PA 248 of 2004 to protect mental health medications prescribed within Medicaid from prior authorization under both managed care and fee-for-service arrangements. This has been recommended by the Calley Mental Health & Wellness Commission, the MDHHS Section 298 Facilitation Workgroup, and the department’s recent psychotropic task force under budget section 1867.
- Seek legislation requiring a clinically integrated dual diagnosis (mental illness/substance use disorder) program – meeting standards established by MDHHS – within each CMHSP.
- Seek legislative language improving discharge planning and implementation, including linkages to community services and medication, for state corrections inmates slated for release. This was another important House CARES Task Force issue. Mental Health Parity is required by Federal law, but Michigan does not have a comparable state law. Parity (equality of coverage) is applicable to both private and public behavioral healthcare.
- Consider and, if warranted, draft legislation on enforcement of federal parity law in Michigan. (Monitoring and enforcement of that law is left up to the states.)
Marianne E. Huff, LMSW
Mental Health Association in Michigan