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Senate passes mental health hotline bill

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-10 03:33:43-05

LANSING, Mich. — The state of Michigan is one step closer to having a mental health hotline.

The legislation was passed in the state Senate Thursday to create the Michigan Crisis and Access line. The hotline would connect people with mental health resources throughout the state.

"I know what it feels like to feel helpless. I know what it feels like to now know where to go," State Representative Mary Whiteford said.

Representative Whiteford is talking about her experience trying to get help for a loved one in a mental health crisis.

"I called my local community mental health and they told me "well if the person's not on Medicaid or suicidal, we can't help you," and then I called some local providers. They weren't taking new patients and it was an eight-month wait," Whiteford said.

For three years, Whiteford worked to get a state-wide mental health hotline. This week the Senate voted to create the Michigan Crisis and Access Line to connect callers with needed resources.

"An individual will call. You can be a teacher, you can be an emergency room nurse trying to find a bed for somebody that's in crisis- a psychiatric bed, it could be a police officer, a teacher, just somebody who knows somebody that they care about needs help," Whiteford said.

Mark McWilliams with the Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service said the hotline would address a long-standing problem.

"There are stories, if you talk to providers, about having to call around and making dozens of phone calls before they can find a service that a person needs. Often it's kind of short-time crisis intervention or crisis stabilization," McWilliams said.

The non-profit serves those with disabilities and mental illness. McWilliams said he is happy to finally see action being taken.

"There are problems getting community services especially, so to see that there's legislation moving forward, even making a change like this is really satisfying," McWilliams said. "It's not going to solve all of our problems, but it is something that we can do given our current resources to make service easier."

The state House has to approve some changes the Senate made before the bill goes to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk.

The hotline would combine the suicide hotline, opioid hotline and in-patient psych bed registry.

If the legislation passes, Michigan will become only the second state to have a service like this.

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