Michigan voters oppose privatization of mental health services

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MICHIGAN — A majority of voters oppose the privatization of mental health services in Michigan, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan.

According to the poll results, 67% of voters prefer the public mental health system run by public entities specializing in mental health care rather than entrusting the system to private for-profit companies.

Last year, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey introduced Senate Bills 597 and 598, which would privatize all Medicaid mental health services by giving financial control and oversight to the companies. for-profit insurance company, said a press release from Community Mental Health for Central Michigan.


The EPIC-MRA poll shows that two in three Michigan voters would not support this change. The poll was conducted in January among active and likely voters in the November 2022 general election.

The poll found that 76% of voters worry that private, for-profit health plans don’t have a good track record in addressing mental health needs and are making matters worse. Additionally, 73% are concerned that the overhead costs and profits that private insurance companies derive from the taxpayer-funded Medicaid system will lead to a decrease in mental health services.

According to the poll, nearly 4 times as many voters are less likely to support their lawmaker if they support privatizing mental health services for Medicaid patients than those who are likely to support that lawmaker.

Fifty-four percent think Governor Gretchen Whitmer should veto the legislation if it gets to her.

“Our members have heard the concerns of their constituents and these results confirm that voters are concerned about letting private health plans take control of services for our most vulnerable populations,” said Stephen Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association. of Counties. “It’s clear that Michiganders and county commissioners across the state believe it’s best to keep a local public mental health system.”

The Mecosta County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution stating its opposition to the legislation in October 2021. The resolution stated that the proposed legislation would fundamentally change the public behavioral health system by ending oversight, guidance and accountability public.

“Both proposals, as they currently stand, threaten CMH’s ability to deliver services and transfer responsibility for managing public services to private health plans and the state, thereby undermining oversight and control. at the county level,” he said.
Furthermore, he said that the public system is much more efficient at transferring taxpayers’ money to services rather than administration, infrastructure or profit.

CMHCM director John Obermesick told the board at the time that the two legislative proposals would undermine local control and result in reduced funding.

“The opposition is rooted in the planned transfer of $3 million from the public system to the state’s private mental health providers,” he said. “They intend, through legislation, to defund community mental health agencies, and we cannot accept that.”

The CMHCM press release states that for the past 50 years, Michigan’s mental health system has been managed and operated by county-based government entities to serve Michiganders with complex mental disorders, emotional disorders, intellectual and developmental disabilities and substance abuse. Each year, more than 325,000 Michiganders receive their services and care from Michigan’s public mental health care system.

A study by the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Integration found that Michigan’s public mental health system has a long tradition of high performance, he said.

The legislation under consideration would eliminate Michigan’s existing public mental health care system and shift billions of state and federal dollars spent on it each year to private, for-profit insurance companies.

According to the press release, the National Committee for Quality Assurance gave health insurance companies that provide mental health services for the treatment of mild to moderate mental health cases 2.4 out of 5 stars. other states that have chosen private companies to manage mental health care have found that they do not provide the same level of care or understand unique needs.

Proponents of the public mental health care system are concerned that health insurance companies may not be able to provide services to adults with serious mental health needs, according to the press release.

“As the survey results underscore, the people of Michigan strongly oppose Senate Bills 597 and 598. Their concerns revolve around private health insurers’ poor record on mental health and high overhead and profit taking from these companies – siphoning taxpayers’ money. out of the system designed to serve some of the most vulnerable Michiganders,” said ACSM CEO Robert Sheehan. “Michindiders see through the misrepresentation of these bills as improving the lives of Michiganders. They see the damage these bills will do to the state’s public community mental health system and, therefore, to the health and quality of life of the 325,000 Michiganders who have long relied on this system for services and high quality mental health supports. ”

More than 100 Michigan-based groups oppose the privatization of mental health care, including the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, the Michigan Association of Counties, more than 30 boards of county commissioners, more than 50 health care provider organizations mental health, court and school organizations, the Michigan Catholic Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and organized labor groups, according to the press release.

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