Several options locally for mental health care
EAGLE RIVER — While local sheriff’s departments are stretched thin by mental illness transports from the four-county area to facilities in Sault Ste. Marie, and even as far as Detroit, what the May 27 mental health presentation in Eagle River also revealed is that there are, in fact, more facilities locally offering and providing mental health services that than the area is given credit for. The Western Upper Peninsula does not have facilities for every need, but there are services available. While the panel of representatives from more than a dozen organizations spoke at the May 27 event, some spoke of gaps and weaknesses in the mental health system in the Copper Country, but others spoke of the system’s strengths.
Leslie Griffith, outpatient program director at Copper Country Mental Health (CCMH), spoke to the panel and the audience on some of the services available through CCMH. She spoke of both the organization’s assets and its liabilities.
Serving Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga and Ontonagon counties, the mission of the Copper Country Mental Health Services Board is to ensure that appropriate, cost-efficient, and quality behavioral health services are accessible to eligible persons throughout the four-county area. CCMH Services provides an array of services intended to increase independence, improve quality of life, and support community integration and inclusion of the persons served.
“Our primary focus,” said Griffith, “is individuals who have a chronic and severe mental illness who have an intellectual and developmental disability, and children who have what we call a serious emotional disturbance.”
The organization serves individuals from prenatal to end-of-life, through office locations in Houghton and Baraga counties, she said, but the Keweenaw County office is in Calumet, in Houghton County.
“Plus, we have a clubhouse; we have an autism program in a separate building,” she said, “and we have an intensive adult program called Assertive Community Treatment Team, and we also have the institute, which is our prevention and training wing.”
Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is an internationally recognized model for intensive, community-based case management. In the ACT model, case management is provided by a team of individuals representing multiple professional disciplines. The team provides most services and supports directly. Caseloads are typically smaller and the majority of ACT services are delivered outside an office setting. Contact with consumers tends to be frequent, occurring within the environment in which consumers live and work. Staff work collaboratively with consumers, utilizing motivational interviewing practices, to enhance intrinsic motivation and facilitate lasting change and recovery.
With a full-time staff of 189 and 50 part-time staff, CCMH served 1,004 people in 2020, averaging around 700 people open to services at any given moment.
“We primarily serve individuals with Medicaid,” said Griffith, “but we do serve individuals with any other private insurance, if they meet criteria.”
Anybody who receives our services has a wide variety of rights that we have to honor and protect, she emphasized.
The institute provides a variety of education, prevention, and training programs including: adolescent development, asset building, child development, community education, depression education, infant mental health, mental health training, parent education, stress management, substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, and youth social skill development.
Griffith said her organization has not seen any significant impact as a result of the COVID pandemic, but experiences seasonal increases for services.
“In terms of trends, we have not seen a significant change with COVID over the past year,” she said. “We saw a slight decrease in services immediately in the spring, but then it picked up back to normal in the fall of 2020.”
Griffith said her organization averages approximately 25 requests per month for new individuals for services, and in terms of crisis services, she said there has not been not a significant change due to COVID.
“We do always see a difference in spring and fall,” said Griffith. “Those always tend to be busier times of the year. But we went back and looked at the last three years of data, and in a given quarter, so three months, we serve anywhere from 30-120 crisis screenings in a three-month period.”
The last couple of months have been around 70 per quarter.
“The other trend, tele-health obviously has become something that’s more common with COVID, and we have found that consumers tend to appreciate having that (option), and it helps us address issues like transportation and services,
“In terms of specific services,” she continued, “we have residential services, we have and operate, I think,10 group homes within the four counties. We have emergency services available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. We offer community programs to support individuals who are living in the community.”
The support program is just that: The Community Support is a program for individuals with persistent mental illness. Community Support provides practical assistance at home and in the community with such things as medication management, money management, grocery shopping, and housekeeping.
“This is for people of all ages, regardless of if they have a mental illness or developmental disability,” said Griffith. “That includes things like medical deliveries, and also offering skill building, to individuals so they are able to live and work successfully within our communities.”
In terms of efforts CCMH is making to increase resources, Griffith said the organization is six months into a five-year grant, coordinating with the Copper County Intermediate School District (CCISD), called Project Aware.
The purpose of this program is to build or expand the capacity of State Educational Agencies, in partnership with State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) overseeing school-aged youth, and with three local education agencies (LEAs) to:
– Increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth;
– provide training for school personnel and other adults who interact with school-aged youth to detect and respond to mental health issues;
– connect school-aged youth who may have behavioral health issues (including serious emotional disturbance [SED] or serious mental illness [SMI]), and their families, to needed services. SAMHSA expects that this program will focus on partnerships and collaboration between state and local systems to promote the healthy development of school-aged youth and prevent youth violence.
CCMH is one of three organizations in the state receiving the grant, is to identify and train the community on youth mental health needs.
“So, we’re going to be doing a lot of trainings,” Griffith said, “and a lot of outreach into the community in the next couple of years, in coordination with them, specifically targeting teachers and school staff, but the community at large, and then the second part of that is making sure those youth have access to behavioral health services.”
In short, she said, the goal is to identify children who need services, and proved services between the two agencies,” said Griffith.