Stabenow, Tlaib highlight need for more behavioral health clinics amid COVID-19 pandemic 

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) | Ken Coleman

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and advocates said Thursday that more certified behavioral health clinics are needed in underserved communities. The Capitol Hill lawmakers said the need for services provided by these facilities has increased during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has shown a spotlight on the urgent and continuing need to fund comprehensive community mental health and addiction services,” said Stabenow. “One out of five Americans have a mental illness or substance abuse disorder. And now even more Michigan families are struggling during this pandemic.”

The clinics help treat a wide range of mental and physical health issues, such as depression, anxiety, diabetes management, weight loss, alcoholism and drug addiction.

Tlaib and Stabenow toured Southwest Solutions, a certified behavioral health clinic in Detroit, and met with their service providers and partners. They were joined by Southwest Solutions President and CEO Sean de Four, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Michigan Executive Director Kevin Fischer and Wayne County Deputy CEO Rick Kaufman. 

In 2014, Stabenow co-sponsored with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act. The legislation has helped to fund more than 300 health clinics in 41 states, including 24 in Michigan. 

Last year, Michigan became part of the demonstration program that allows federal funds to be used to create services that meet the needs of people who otherwise don’t have access to mental health care. The state secured $112 million to help fund the clinics. Southwest Solutions received about $4 million of that.

A ‘trauma tsunami’: COVID-19 takes its toll on Michiganders’ mental health

“This funding comes at a crucial time when so many families are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said de Four. “It will enable us to expand our services for people in a mental health crisis and provide better integrated mental-physical health services.” 

Fischer said that Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) “allow people, once they are ready for help, to have a place to go get high quality help and not be concerned about their ability to pay.

“Stigma is the leading barrier to people getting the help that they need, but the second barrier is having access to high-quality behavioral health care,” he added.

Tlaib, who represents the area where Southwest Solutions is located, praised Stabenow for her leadership. 

“For too long, our country has funded health care above the neck differently than health care below the neck. Sen. Stabenow’s leadership is transforming the way we deliver comprehensive behavioral health services in our communities.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that people who receive services at certified community behavioral health clinics have fewer emergency department visits for behavioral health, spend less time in jail and are less likely to be homeless.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.