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Cambensy underscores necessity of improved mental health services

Actress Glenn Close once said, “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.”

That’s exactly what our local representative is looking to do.

State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, hosted a virtual town hall on Monday night to discuss where Michigan’s mental health system currently stands.

The session, which was held via Zoom, was the third of 11 stops on the Mental Health Listening Tour, a program hosted by Michigan House Democrats to “discuss the current state of our mental health system in Michigan, existing barriers and ideas for improvement,” organizers said.

Cambensy was joined on Monday’s panel by state Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township; Dr. Zakia Alavi, chief medical director of NorthCare Network, Mid-State Health Network and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development Medical Education at Michigan State University; Michael St. John, CEO of Pathways; Brian Foreman, behavioral health program manager at Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center; and Nate Michaels, a licensed mental health counselor at UP Health System-Marquette.

Each panelist outlined what they believe is wrong with the current mental health system and discussed ways it can be improved.

“This topic is near and dear to my heart,” Cambensy said. “It’s something that our office hears about every day in terms of what we need more of, where things are falling short, how people are slipping through the cracks, and also the push and pull we’re hearing from Lansing.

“There are some bill packages out there that look to drastically reform our mental health services, and I’m so grateful for my colleague, Rep. Brabec, because she has a lot of expertise in this background and she is taking the lead in our caucus to make sure that what we’re hearing and looking for stays the focus, and that we don’t implement anything that would hurt our services to our mental health patients.”

Brabec added, “Before I even got to the Legislature and joined Rep. Cambensy, I was working with folks throughout the state around things to be able to improve for our consumers and their families,” Brabec said. “As Rep. Cambensy alluded to, that is our lens and that is our focus. How do we make the system … how do we improve things … the things that are working, how do we keep those the same and make sure they’re functioning as we want them to, and where are there opportunities for us to grow in terms of what we offer in our public system?”

We are pleased to see that action is being taken to make Michigan’s mental health system the best it can be. This is an issue that affects a staggering number of people, and we applaud Cambensy for addressing the topic and implementing legislation to help improve the lives of the people she represents.

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