On his last day in office, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed 200 bills into law on behalf of the legislature.
Five of those Dec. 28, 2018, bills were about the mental health treatment of minors in the state of Michigan.
As of 2017, there are an estimated 300,000 people living with mental illness in the state of Michigan alone. Many Michigan representatives, including Representative Hank Vaupel, of Livingston county, who toured the state to inspect its current mental health facilities, feel that the Michigan legislature has failed them in the treatment offered. Rep. Vaupel sponsored House Bill 5810, after the tour, which allowed for better and more extensive outpatient treatment in Michigan.
This is meant to help college students who struggle with mental health issues on campus receive better care in form of assisted outpatient treatment intended to intervene before a crisis. As many people dealing with mental health issues often find themselves waiting for hours in an emergency room without being helped. Even then, patients who require additional treatment have difficulty getting into treatment facilities and are discharged from the emergency room.
Rep. Vaupel was also involved in two other bills, which would allow minors with a mental illness to be tried in separate mental health courts, co sponsored by Representative Julie Calley, and a bill which would allow parents to seek involuntary treatment for minors, co sponsored by Representative Vanessa Guerra.
These new bills also change the state’s definition of when people require treatment. Before this, a court required two testimonies before considering outpatient treatment programs before young people reach a crisis. Parents are now able to get involuntary treatment for their minor children if it is deemed necessary.
While campus counseling services is a useful alternative to emergency rooms and can be utilized for free by any student in many instances, many students find themselves concerned about being recognized by their peers and judged for entering the building.
One of the new bills will let mentally ill minors be tried for any crimes in mental health courts. These newer courts were available for adults in Michigan but not for minors. They are considered a fairly new method of dealing with the mentally ill who have been accused of crimes in Michigan.
The goal of this, according to Rep. Calley, is to reduce recidivism — or when a convicted person breaks the same law that got them in trouble — in young people. Michigan’s current mental health code makes it difficult for guardians to intervene when a person’s judgment is impaired by mental illness and they are unable to make informed decisions for them to see mental health professionals.
This new law is meant to provide treatment to offenders as an alternative to incarceration, including options for drug, mental health, sobriety, and veteran treatment. So far in adult mental health courts, graduates are two times less likely to commit another crime, are more likely to gain employment and have an improved mental health and quality of life.
The State has awarded $5.2 million to fund the operation of 31 new mental health courts in 2019 fiscal year. Minors have to prove that they are mentally ill. If they can prove it, they may go to a mental health clinic rather than a youth detention center.
Some first-year college students under the age of 18 might also find their status changed by a new Michigan law.
This new law allows parents and guardians of minors to consent to involuntary treatment for their children or for a legally incapacitated individual. This would force minors or incapacitated adults to receive mental health treatment if their guardian deemed it necessary. However, as a safeguard, guardians would be required to provide annual reports on treatments.
Before, mental health was not a service that guardians could provide consent for.
The goal of these bills is to help those struggling with mental health issues before a crisis occurs. There is also concern that many mentally ill Michiganders end up in jail rather than receiving much-needed help. All but three of Michigan’s mental institutions have been shut down since 2003, and this has left a large gap in opportunities for treatment.
On the federal level, only a small amount of funding is allocated towards mental health in comparison to other like public policy issues.
Representative Vanessa Guerra of Bridgeport Township believes that this is a major step forward in health care in Michigan.
“Too many people in our state go without the health care and support they need, whether it’s due to the rising cost of prescription drugs or because they are unable to access available resources,” she said. “We should be doing all we can to ensure people have access to these critical care services. By allowing guardians to have a stronger voice for the individuals in their care, we are helping them better serve their loved ones and connect them with the support they need.”