As Michigan's economy continues to grow, it is important that we not leave anyone behind – including people with mental illnesses, disabilities, and suffering from addiction. On Friday, Gov. Snyder signed our seventh budget into law that includes priority items to ensure that our most vulnerable populations have access to the supports and services they need to live independent and self-determined lives.
This budget is a true testament to your advocacy efforts. I am thankful for your partnership and unwavering persistence in communicating the importance of our priorities to the Legislature, leading to inclusion within the final version of the budget. Below is an overview of the outcomes of several budget priorities that will help make a better Michigan for everyone.
Mental Health and Wellness Commission Programming:
· I chaired the Mental Health and Wellness Commission, which worked to help Michiganders living with mental health issues achieve greater quality of life, safety, and independence. Its recommendations supported the growth of Project SEARCH, an internship program for students with disabilities, helping students learn the skills needed to gain competitive integrated employment. The recommendations also supported Project Unify, which is helping create more inclusive school environments. TheExecutive budget recommendation was $21.1 million and the final budget included $18.9 millionforthis programming, including$500,000 for SpecialOlympics. An additional $100,000 was added for the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative.
Direct Care Worker Wage Increase:
· Direct care workers help improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens every day. In order for us to keep and attract qualified individuals, we must provide direct care workers with competitive wages. The final version of the budget included the recommended increase of .50/hour for these compassionate caretakers.
· Autism treatment in Michigan has come a long way since I signed autism insurance reform in 2012, helping people live more independent, self-determined lives.
· University autism funding is critical to train future autism behavioral therapists who willgo on to provide this essential therapy, as well as healthcare professionals to help diagnose and effectively treat youth and adults with autism. Though we have come a long way in increasing the number of therapists in Michigan, there is still a waiting list and we need to be sure we are supporting our universities in continuing to grow their programs. Universities received $500,000 in this year’s budget, though the Executive recommendation was $1 million.
· Medicaid autism services funding helps diagnose youth with autism and provides applied behavior analysis to assist youth on Medicaid in reaching their full potential. The budget included an additional $43.9 million in funding totaling $105.1 million to cover the increased number of youth qualifying for these services.
· The Autism Navigator helps connect more people to available autism services. The Autism Alliance of Michigan runs the Navigator, providing access to resources and support for families navigating the difficulties of finding the right treatment and services for their loved ones. The budget maintained $565,000 for this item.
Better Integration of Behavioral and Physical Health Care:
· Behavioral and physical health care need to be treated with the same importance. Over the past year, there have been productive conversations looking into how to better integrate health care. These efforts have elevated this discussion, helped reduce stigma, and led to serious consideration of how to improve outcomes for those receiving behavioral health services while reducing administrative costs. With the goal of finding the most effective method of integration, the Legislature authorized one demonstration model in Kent County and up to three pilots in other counties. I will be watching these projects closely as implementation begins.
The Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board:
· The Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board set forth recommendations in 2016 to eliminate child lead exposure throughout the state, focused on being proactive to make environments safer, preventing lead exposure before it occurs. A permanent commission was created in March 2017 to implement the recommendations and make Michigan a lead-free state for our children. The final budget included $1.3 million for this initiative, though the Executive recommendation was $2 million.
Centers for Independent Living:
· Centers for Independent Living help people with disabilities across the state live self- sufficient lives, and work to ensure that communities are accessible for everyone. Funding has been utilized in conjunction with Michigan Rehabilitation Services to gain federal matching funds and increase efforts to train, place, and support Michiganders with disabilities who deserve the chance to have competitive careers. Total funding for the Centers for Independent Living is $12 million in the final budget, including the $2 million needed for matching to receive federal funds.
Employment First in Michigan:
· Employment First in Michigan is an initiative to promote opportunities for people with disabilities to gain competitive employment within an integrated setting and to engage organizations about the value of hiring people with disabilities. The final version of the budget included $500,000 in support of this initiative, helping promote and increase competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.
Mental Health Diversion Council:
· I have chaired the Mental Health Diversion Council since 2013, which focuses on reducing the number of people with mental health issues entering the criminal justice system, as well as intellectual or developmental disabilities, or suffering from addiction. These efforts are in process at our eleven jail diversion pilots, aimed at creating models that can be implemented all across Michigan. Assisted outpatient treatment is now more accessibleaswellthroughtheexpansion ofKevin’sLaw, connectingfamilies with access to better treatment before a crisis occurs. The council’s $6 million in base funding has been maintained in the final version of the budget.
Thank you to your advocacy efforts in helping move these initiatives forward. I look forward to our continued work together in creating a Michigan where every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential.