Accessing mental health care

HOUGHTON – Having access to mental health care, obviously, is the first step to getting treatment, but unfortunately, funding cuts could mean some people aren’t getting the treatment they need.

Vicki Mikkola, executive director of Copper Country Mental Health in Houghton, said there are several ways a person might get involved with the mental health care system.

“A person can call on their own, or someone can call on their behalf,” she said. “Most people call for themselves or a family member.”

Of course, before a person can call on his or her own, he or she must realize there may be a mental health problem, Mikkola said.

“That’s tough,” she said.

For individuals who think they may be going through a mental health crisis, Mikkola said CCMH has a crisis line, which can be reached at 482-9404 during regular business hours. After hours, the number is 800-526-5059.

“There’s always somebody available that can evaluate the situation,” she said.

Someone who calls the CCMH crisis line may not want to come in the offices or a hospital emergency room for treatment, but Mikkola said something may be done anyway.

“The options are to have the police pick them up,” she said.

If that were to happen, Mikkola said the police would take the person going through a mental health crisis to a local emergency room for initial treatment. The ER doctor will make a determination whether or not to call staff at CCMH, who will evaluate the situation and determine what, if any, further treatment the person needs, including hospitalization.

Mikkola said the local police departments train their officers to deal with people who are possibly going through a mental health situation.

“The police here are very good,” she said. “We’re really lucky to have the local police working with us. They will stay at the hospital as long as the doctor feels it’s necessary.”

Mass shootings, whether at workplaces, schools or universities have been prominent in the United States for many years, and although many of the people who do the shootings have mental health issues and may have been getting treatment, Mikkola said people with mental health problems are no more likely to commit acts of violence of any kind than the rest of the population.

There are also cases where a judge may order a person to get mental health treatment, Mikkola said.

With the implementation of Healthy Michigan, which expands the number of people on Medicaid in the state using federal money, some state mental health programs were reduced or eliminated because of the way money is distributed.

“Unfortunately, the way the mental health system is set up, we’re not able to see people until their illnesses (are significant),” she said.

Some Michigan mental heath care professionals are concerned about the change brought about by the implementation of Healthy Michigan. In the publication Call To Action, Mark Reinstein, president and CEO of the Mental Health Association wrote because of the changes, many people without Medicaid are having their access to Community Mental Health Services Programs reduced or eliminated.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s office has stated people who previously had no Medicaid coverage would now be able to get it and get the treatment they need, but Reinstein wrote he’s not so sure which side is correct.

“But I do know the entire mental health community has grown alarmed about the reports of service shrinkage for persons who lack Medicaid coverage – traditional or expansion,” he wrote.

Mikkola said many family doctors are aware or are learning about the warning signs for people with mental health issues who may be liable to become violent.

“I think it’s improving, and there’s a lot more information available to them,” she said.

Some of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act require doctors to do screening, which might indicate a patient may have a mental health problem.

There is a trend among health care professionals to integrate physical and mental health to treat the whole person, Mikkola said.

“Behavioral health and physical health are so intertwined,” she said.