CMH director agrees with governor’s mental health veto.

October 2, 2019

Lisa Williams

CMH director agrees with governor’s mental health veto.

LUDINGTON — The director of West Michigan Community Mental Health is praising Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for issuing a line-item veto on mental health services that would have allowed private health plans to work with agencies other than a local CMH to provide mental health services, a move that a Lisa Williams, executive director of WMCMH, said the budget as presented would have favored for-profit health care over citizens with mental health disorders.

In the proposed 2019-20 budget for the Department of Health and Human Services, state lawmakers included language that would have fundamentally changed the Section 298 Initiative, Hotovy said. As part of the initiative, West Michigan CMH along with the Genesee CMH and HealthWest in Muskegon agreed to participate in a pilot program that would have changed the structure for how community mental health systems are funded.

The current model allows Medicaid funding for CMH services to be managed separately from Medicaid funding for physical health services. Under the 298 Pilot, the funding for both services would have been fully integrated and managed by the private health plans while ensuring a strong and robust public mental health system, Hotovy said.

“The language vetoed by the governor would have allowed the private health plans to work with agencies other than a local CMH to provide mental health services; a move that would have favored for-profit health care over citizens with mental health disorders,” Hotovy said. 

“Governor Whitmer recognizes the importance of integrating physical and behavioral health care and the role community mental health systems play in the delivery of those services,” Williams said. “Now that she’s vetoed the proposed language that would have changed the nature of the pilot, we look forward to working with her administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to design a system that puts patient care and quality of life first while ensuring the financial and clinical integrity of the state’s public mental health system.”

Williams said integrating physical and behavioral health care is the wave of the future.

“We continue to believe in the importance of integrated care and looking for creative solutions to ensure better whole person outcomes for the people and communities we serve,” she said. “Care integration can occur without financial integration if you have established partnerships with Medicaid health plans that value individual outcomes over profit margins.”

West Michigan CMH is the public behavioral health care provider for Mason, Lake and Oceana counties.

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