Mental health is particularly important to me because I lost my first wife, the mother of my children, to mental illness. I know first hand the devastation and grief that untreated mental health issues cause, not only was I heartbroken, my sons lost their mom and I had to be brave to support them.  I do not want any family to experience that loss, which is why mental health treatment is one of my top priorities. 

The System is Broken 

The Mental Health system in the US is broken, they do not have enough resources to treat everyone, there are very few long term care facilities for mental health due to the shut down of state hospitals in 1996.  There are seven counties in the UP that do not have a single therapist, psychiatrist or substance abuse treatment facility.  The mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities we have lack the funding and staff needed to meet clients’ needs.  

Therapists and social workers are leaving the field entirely due to huge caseloads, low pay, lack of administrative support and bureaucratic barriers that prevent them from providing the help and resources their clients desperately need. Millions of people who need mental health and substance abuse treatment are either unaware of the resources available or encounter so much red tape while seeking treatment, that they give up.  Michigan was already in an opioid crisis when covid hit and exacerbated mental health issues. I will sponsor legislation to increase funding for mental health and substance treatment, require and fund treatment centers in every county. 

Housing & Jobs

Mental health and substance abuse issues do not occur in a bubble and they can’t be properly treated without also addressing systemic housing and employment issues. Even with access to a therapist and medication, many people fighting addiction struggle to stay sober because they face abuse at home, live in neighborhoods and homes with people actively using and cannot afford to move due to housing costs and lack of well paid job opportunities. If we really want to help people recover, then we must increase access to subsidized housing and remove barriers to gainful employment. 

What I’ve Done

In the Michigan State House, I’ve sponsored the following bills to support mental health:

House Bill 4929: is part of the Behavioral Health Reform package that aims to improve access to quality services for behavioral health. The package allows for effective, uniformed service, and greater public accountability on providers as a single entity. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services would be solely responsible for the system proposed in this package. Allowing for easier and more direct access and less “red tape” to cut through to obtain services.

House Bill 5120: would increase required mental health first aid training and self-care technique training for law enforcement. This bill is intended to equip our officers with the best methods to de-escalate a situation involving someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis. Additionally, this will teach police officers how to recognize their own mental health crises and provide them tools on how to best manage them. Equipping officers with proper, up-to-date training along with providing them with tools on how to best manage their own mental health needs will result in safer interactions between community members and police officers, putting a stronger focus on community policing.

House Bill 5122: would require a school district, intermediate school district, or public-school academy to employ or contract at least 1 school psychologist and 1 school social worker. Presently, many school districts in our state, specifically districts with a higher at-risk student population, lack access to counseling services for students. Ensuring our students have access to mental health professionals during school hours would improve their learning environment and will encourage them to utilize various resources while developing healthy behavioral health habits.

House Bill 5123: would require mental health first aid training and self-care techniques for correction officers. The bill is meant to make sure our officers recognize when an inmate is coping with a mental health disorder and how best to interact with that individual. Our correctional system is an environment filled with tensions and stress. Self-care techniques will help to equip corrections officers to fight against that stress to prevent it from affecting the way they treat those who are incarcerated. This will allow for safer and more effective interactions.