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Senate introduces reform plan to integrate physical and mental health care: ‘We can and must be patient-centered and outcomes-based’

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey on Thursday introduced legislation to address gaps in Michigan’s mental health care system, making care more accessible to those in need and fully integrated with physical health.

“Where you live should not determine access to mental health care and mental health care, like all health care, must reflect how people live their lives,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Through this critical reform, mental health care provided by the state of Michigan will be portable and more accessible, no matter where you call home.”

Under the Senate proposed plan, Senate Bill 597, the state would contract to provide a comprehensive Medicaid health care benefit package that includes the full integration of physical and behavioral services.

The state would phase in integration in three steps to ensure continuity of care and services for both patients and providers. To ensure successful integration and outcomes, the state would be required to adopt strict measurement standards to ensure that satisfactory performance targets are met before moving forward with the next phase.

A phase would not be considered successful unless and until statistically significant improvements in service delivery, health outcomes and access have been achieved.

“Our system can and must be patient-centered and outcomes-based,” said Shirkey. “The trauma suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic magnified and amplified the weaknesses in our current mental health system. The science shows when mental health and physical health care are addressed and evaluated together, it leads to better outcomes for both.”

SB 598, sponsored by Sen. John Bizon, R- Battle Creek, would create the position of the behavioral health ombudsman, who would establish procedures for receiving and processing complaints, conducting investigations, holding informal hearings, and reporting findings and recommendations resulting from investigations.

The bill would also create the behavioral health accountability council, chaired by the ombudsman, to monitor the progress of the specialty integrated plans.

Senate Bills 597 and 598 have been referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee for consideration.