There's a fight right now for better access to mental health care in our state, this after the suicide of 16-year-old Ian Hartley from Charlotte.
"I'm scared this is going to happen to somebody else," says Ian's mom Julie Hartley.
Months earlier, his mom says Ian was being treated for depression by the family doctor. But in early May, he had developed a suicide plan.
They sought treatment at Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties and then McLaren Greater Lansing. But, on May 2nd, Ian jumped from a Charlotte bridge.
"It shouldn't have happened to him and it shouldn't happen to anybody else if they seek care because they are having a crisis," says his mom.
Senator Rick Jones has spoken with Ian's mom, and he says he has now ordered a full investigation into CMH.
"I'm angry about it," says Senator Jones, (R) Grand Ledge, "I'm going to do everything I can to get the system to function better and if I need to do legislation to mandate it, I will."
The senator says no one should be turned away from any institution if they are suicidal.
"There needs to be immediate treatment, I don't care if there is any ability to pay," he says.
Sara Lurie, CMH's CEO tells me in part in an email that she welcomes the dialogue with Senator Jones and that, "...we are keenly aware that there are many complex challenges to be overcome to improve access to care for all.."
McLaren's Chief Medical Officer Linda Peterson says in an email statement in part that, "We create an individualized plan of care for each patient based on evidenced-based practices and Michigan's mental health code guidelines."
For this family, it's a mission to get help to those who need it, and to keep the memory alive of their son alive.
The Hartley's tell us they have private insurance.
Here are the full statements from CMH and McLaren:
Sara Lurie, CEO Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton, Ingham Counties:
The loss of life due to suicide is painful for all and our hearts go out to the family and friends of Ian Hartley and the community.
I have been in contact with Senator Rick Jones and welcome the dialogue. I believe it is essential that as he examines the issue of access that he have a thorough understanding of the challenges facing CMH’s and other behavioral health providers locally and statewide.
Community Mental Health Authority of Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties provides intensive programs and services in homes and communities to nearly 12,000 residents of the tri-county area. Our staff works tirelessly to serve some of our most vulnerable citizens, those with severe mental illness, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and youth and families with severe emotional disturbance, supporting them in participating in the life of our community. Daily, we see that the mental health needs in our schools and communities are great. As one important part of the community’s overall behavioral health care system, we are keenly aware that there are many complex challenges to be overcome to improve access to care for all.
Statewide, along with many other CMHs we struggle with a shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, limited openings in inpatient hospital facilities, and limited state general fund dollars to be used to support the needs of those who require intensive services, are low income, are uninsured-but do not qualify for Medicaid or Healthy Michigan, or are on expensive spend downs before they qualify.
However, it is also heartening to note, we are involved in many strong community partnerships and initiatives happening in our tri-county area to improve understanding of mental illness, to map existing resources, to identify gaps and to increase collaboration and access to care. Some of these include projects to integrate behavioral health into primary care and medical settings, school based health centers, mental health courts, jail based mental health services, and the development of law enforcement Crisis Intervention Team Training. To be successful, projects such as these also need continued investment and support by the broader community, including policy makers.
Linda Peterson, MD, FAPA, FAPM, psychiatrist, Chief Medical Officer of McLaren Greater Lansing:
Our hearts go out to Ian’s family and friends as they, and the entire community, mourn this tragic loss. The entire McLaren family including the physicians, nurses and clinical staff in our emergency department, on our inpatient units, and in our community clinics, see the impact of our nation’s mental health crisis each and every day. This epidemic is affecting countless adults, teens, and children alike.
Every day, more than a dozen people we care for in our emergency department are fighting to cope with a mental health condition. We create an individualized plan of care for each patient based on evidenced-based practices and Michigan’s mental health code guidelines. Our physicians, nurses, and staff do their absolute best to care for every person who walks through our doors seeking help, often times in crisis situations.
Mental health care was even one of the priorities identified by mid-Michigan residents during a recent Community Health Needs Assessment and remains something that the entire health care community can continue to collectively address.