Michigan’s community mental health agencies expanding crisis care

Michigan’s community mental health agencies are stepping up to evolve the way they offer care to those in need — especially crisis care. Genesee Health System and Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority are two examples.
Genesee Health System Urgent Care
In 2022, approximately 20% of Michigan adults were experiencing a mental illness; 55.4% of them did not receive treatment. As overdose deaths continue to rise, even fewer individuals with substance use disorders are receiving treatment. Millions of American adults battle serious thoughts of suicide. And more than one in ten youth experience depression that impairs their ability to function well in all aspects of their lives. 

Those numbers are serious and sad. However, Michigan’s community mental health agencies are stepping up to evolve the way they offer care to those in need — especially crisis care. Genesee Health System (GHS) unveiled their Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) in the fall of 2023 and it has continued to build momentum every day since.

Lisa Bruder, Genesee Health System manager of crisis services“We assist individuals by providing on-the-spot crisis intervention, de-escalation, skill building, psychoeducation, parenting skills, assessment/referral to additional crisis support, and much more,” says Lisa Bruder, GHS manager of crisis services. “The BHUC is available to anyone residing in or passing through Genesee County regardless of level of need, insurance status, or income.”

The Genesee Health System BHUC is now open seven days a week. Virtual urgent care is available 24/7.

“Onsite, we offer psychiatric evaluation and medication services, crisis assessment, peer support specialists, and other needed services to enhance the safety and wellbeing of the people we serve,” Bruder says. “The ability to provide immediate onsite triage and treatment has allowed us to leverage our strengths to provide a new pathway to community-based care for our community.”

A BHUC clinical team provides mobile response to various educational settings through a program called U-Cares. Staff positioned inside the emergency room at Hurley Medical Center link individuals to BHUC services. GHS also provides supportive services to inmates of the Genesee County Jail.

“Our goal is to create a collaboration of safety-net providers to enhance our spectrum of crisis services to divert those in crisis from the hospital or jail,” Bruder says. “When our consumers access community-based crisis services such as mobile crisis stabilization, partial hospitalization programs, or the crisis residential unit, we see longer-lasting, more successful outcomes with significantly reduced strain on emergency services such as the ER and jail.”

A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) connects law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services, and individuals with mental illness and their families. As an access point for Intensive Children’s Crisis Stabilization, the BHUC supports anyone in Genesee County, birth to 21 years old, experiencing a self-identified crisis or needing support.

“We have created a foundation built on the understanding that by working together, we can establish better outcomes,” Bruder says. “We want to be able to support people in the moments they need us the most. With the opening and expanding hours of the BHUC, our community no longer faces high costs associated with insufficient healthcare coverage or long wait times with limited options. By enhancing awareness of mental health, we reduce social stigma and barriers to accessing meaningful care.”

GHS also partners with the Genesee Community Health Center (GCHC) to provide primary care, outpatient mental health, and substance abuse treatment services as a patient-centered medical home.

“GCHC prides itself on improving health and health equity in Genesee County,” Bruder says. “We do that through the provision of high-quality healthcare services and programs in an integrated, patient-centered environment with a priority focus on homeless and public housing residents.”

Mental health crisis care expands in Northern Michigan

Thanks to $5 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (NLCMHA) will renovate the former behavioral health center at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City into a mental wellness center where all services will be located under one roof by December 2024.

Brian Martinus, interim chief executive officer, Northern Lakes Community Mental Health.“[Our goal] is to help more people, to create an access hub,” says Brian Martinus, NLCMHA interim CEO. “If someone comes in off the street and doesn’t qualify for certain community mental health services, they are presented with assessments and warm hand-offs to other agencies.”

While the project is just getting off the ground, the renovations will proceed in a three-phase approach. In phase one, NLCMHA staff will begin serving Munson patients with mental health first aid and urgent care. Phase two will create a crisis residential unit for adults seeking mental health services at the ER. Phase three will establish a mental health urgent care facility for children and adolescents.

“We want to get people into treatment or get them the help they may need,” Martinus says. “We want to be able to give people access to treatment, to give them hope, to give them services that they need, and hopefully give them the chance to get the help they need to live a healthy, productive life.”

In June 2023, NLCMHA opened its current six-bed crisis residential unit for people who go to the hospital for mental health issues but do not meet the standard for an ER stay.

“This is a tool we’re able to use for diversion — to help people stabilize,” says Martinus. “It’s a great resource for the community and has been utilized quite extensively.”

NLCMHA Traverse City location.Northern Lakes is also partnering with Grand Traverse County and Traverse City Police to expand crisis mobile services. A transition team and multidisciplinary professional team assist with transitioning consumers out of care. The new developments within the Northern Lakes community have been one of collaboration.

“These mental health support programs and developments are a true partnership between all the agencies involved,” says Martinus. “The partnership is trying to reach as many people as it can through the community, and the partnership is working in conjunction with the community to meet people where they’re at to the best of their ability.”

Recruiting the mental health workforce

In both Grand Traverse and Leelanau County, NLCMHA focuses on the need for more community resources, community connections, and offerings for both their staff members as well as for those seeking services.

Nancy Stevenson, NLCMHA chief operations officer for Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties. “The need for mental health treatment has been on a continued increase,” says Nancy Stevenson, NLCMHA chief operations officer for Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties. 

“There are more crisis calls, more unsheltered people, more substance abuse, and there is not anywhere near enough behavioral health or mental health resources available to meet the ever more increasing need.”

To help staff increase crisis-care and other programming, NLCMHA is offering paid internships to local university students. Stevenson is also focused on building agency-wide morale to provide the best services for the community.

“It is important to me that staff feel good about themselves and the jobs they are doing — I want people to feel excited about working at NLCMHA,” Stevenson says. “I want to build a robust, well-trained, and well-respected staff and find where my employees shine and put them in the right position.”

NLCMHA and GHS are just two examples of the expansions happening in mental health crisis care throughout the state. Collaborations with law enforcement in Washtenaw and Sanilac counties divert people in crisis from jail to mental health treatment. Psychiatric urgent care centers, like Summit Pointe’s in Calhoun County, are helping people in crisis 24/7. In addition to  National 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and the Michigan Crisis and Access Line (MiCAL), many local CMHs staff their own crisis call lines

Bruder concludes, “Our urgent care sets a standard of integrated behavioral health treatment that improves health equity and ensures not only the most vulnerable individuals, but all people have sufficient support to receive the care and services they need at the time of day or night they need it.”
Kelsey Sanders is a wellness professional and freelance writer and editor. She has lived in West Michigan her whole life and loves learning and writing about the many great things her area continues to do. When she’s not working, she’s staying home with her baby girl and enjoying the Lakeshore with her husband.

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority photos by John Russell.
Genesee Health System photos courtesy Genesee Health System.
Nancy Stevenson and Brian Martinus photos courtesy
Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority.

The MI Mental Health series highlights the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens, and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of MichiganCenter for Health and Research TransformationGenesee Health SystemMental Health Foundation of West MichiganNorth Country CMHNorthern Lakes CMH AuthorityOnPointSanilac County CMHSt. Clair County CMHSummit Pointe, and Washtenaw County CMH.

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