Whitmer to prioritize community mental health services in next year’s budget proposal

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her Romney Building office, Dec. 14, 2022 | Andrew Roth

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer plans to call for boosts in funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) in her proposal for the next state budget.

“Since I took office, we’ve made record, bipartisan investments in mental health, expanding access and lowering costs,” Whitmer said. “In this year’s budget, let’s expand behavioral health care to more Michiganders so they can get the support they need to get better.” 

On Wednesday, Whitmer will outline her vision for the state’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget for lawmakers, who will then review the governor’s proposed budget and refine their own version in the coming months. The FY 2025 budget year begins Oct. 1.

Ahead of her budget proposal being unveiled, Whitmer shared with the Advance that she is recommending investments in CCBHCs, which operate to increase access to mental health care and substance use disorder services regardless of individuals’ ability to pay. 

Michigan has 30-some CCBHCs, largely focused in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.

“Mental health is just as big a priority as physical health,” Whitmer said. 

She did not say how much she wants to allocate in the budget for the clinics.

In the current FY 2024 budget, $82 billion state budget, more than $250,000 was dedicated to increasing the number of CCBHCs in the state. 

Whitmer said she’ll ask for FY 2025 investments into CCBHCs focusing on securing free mental health and substance use disorder services for those who need them. Investments will focus on underserved communities such as active-duty military or veterans, Medicaid recipients and Michiganders experiencing financial instability, but she will also look for opportunities to bridge the gap for those not adequately covered by private insurance. 

No Michigander should have to go without mental health care, Robert Sheehan, CEO of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan (CMHA) said in a statement.

“With strong investments to boost access to mental healthcare for all Michiganders, especially underserved communities, and providing the financial support needed to grow the number of Michiganders entering the behavioral health field, Governor Whitmer is building on her record of ensuring that Michiganders have what they need to live full, healthy and productive lives,” Sheehan said.

After a discussion last summer with behavioral health care stakeholders and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) director, the department shared leaders’ thoughts about the future of care.

The need for behavioral health services has steadily increased in recent years, Bob Nykamp, vice president and chief operating officer at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, said last summer.

“This is especially true for children and young adults. Families in crisis have often found the services they or their children need do not exist in their area or require extended wait times for care,” Nykamp said. 

Whitmer touched on increasing health care accessibility in her State of the State address last month, calling attention to Michigan codifying elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into state law. 

“While some folks in Washington are trying to repeal the ACA and strip health care away for kids, seniors, and working families, we got your back like a rock in Michigan. We will protect your care — no matter what,” Whitmer said.