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A mental health listening tour event is happening in Ann Arbor

Mental Health

Experts and interested community members will be in Ann Arbor November 15, 2021 to discuss the current state of the mental health system in Michigan.

WEMU’s Lisa Barry talks to State Representative Felicia Brabec, who will be among those hosting the event to talk about existing barriers and ideas for improvement as part of the Michigan House Democrats’ Mental Health Listening Tour. 


Lisa Barry: Here we are nearly two years into a pandemic, and it's sparked a lot of anxiety and cause mental illness issues to emerge and, in some cases, reemerge in adults and children, sometimes just trying to get through the day. This is Lisa Barry, and a group of local lawmakers plan to hold a mental health listening tour event to talk about possible solutions, and one of those involved is joining us now in 89-1 WEMU. Welcome, State Representative Felicia Brabec. Always good to talk to you. 

Felicia Brabec
Credit Michigan House Democrats / housedems.com
55th House District State Representative Felicia Brabec

Felicia Brabec: Hi, Lisa. I'm always excited when I get to spend some time talking about great community issues. 

Lisa Barry: So what's in the works? 

Felicia Brabec: So, as you said, one of the things that we know is that access for mental health care we need to be able to really look at and address. And what we're specifically doing in a mental health listening tour is looking at our public mental health system. Think about our community mental health, either agencies or organizations, throughout the state. There are 46 of them. And we're really thinking about how we provide services. And there are really three populations who get service through those agencies. Those are folks with serious mental illness, adults and children, folks with substance use disorders, and folks with developmental and intellectual disabilities. And so, we get to serve all three populations, and we're just taking a look at again how this public system can just make sure that we're doing all that we can for the consumers and their families. 

Lisa Barry: Well, let's talk about the basics. I'm hearing some people can't even get in to see a mental health professional at this time.

Felicia Brabec: Yeah. You know, I know that for sure. And the private type. That, you know, for folks who have, let's say, private insurance. 

Lisa Barry: Right.

Felicia Brabec: HAP. Aetna. Those kinds of insurance. Yes. You know, it is very..it can be very, very difficult. And yes, there are some of the similar issues on the public side, but there are also some issues in terms of statute in terms of meeting the ability to see people within a certain time frame as well. But, in general, in both systems, I would say that the workforce shortage is real.

Lisa Barry: Hmm. 

Felicia Brabec: The Washtenaw stop will be the 11th stop that I have done in this tour. We have two more that I'm doing after this throughout the state. And, work forward, we talk about at every single one. One of the things that we know right now, we have a shortage of psychiatrists. 

Lisa Barry: So, you're having this mental health listening tour event in Ann Arbor to talk about the current state of our mental health system in Michigan. We talked about there's a shortage of providers and professionals. What else can you tell us about the state of our mental health system in Washtenaw County right now? 

Felicia Brabec: You know, the thing that we talk about when I get to talk with all the community members throughout the state is, you know, there are some amazing things about our public system, about our community mental health systems. And one of them that continues to come up, and I think is absolutely worthwhile and so beneficial in our communities, are the local partnerships. They are truly embedded in the community and able then to connect clients, again, and their families to the necessary services that, at that particular time, are needed. The other thing that we're asking is, you know, we know that there are these wonderful things about our public mental health system. You know, are there other things? What opportunities do we have? You know, are there things that we might take a look at that we potentially could improve upon that are already in existence, that we can buttress a little more? And, you know, the service can be offered a little bit more comprehensively. And I asked, you know, what barriers do you think, you know, exist?

Lisa Barry: Who else will be participating in this mental health listening to event with you? 

Felicia Brabec: So, we're going to have a, you know, the community will be there, and then we have a panel that we're hearing from. And on the panel, we'll have consumers, secondary consumers, first consumers, family members. We are going to have Trish Cortes, the director of our community mental health. We're going to our interview here. We are going to have Ray Rion, who is the director of our federally qualified health center, Packard Health. We're going to have Victor Hong, who is the executive director of psychiatric emergency services at the University of Michigan, and we're going to have Keta Cowan, who is the executive director of Synod Community Services, who is a partner. And so, we're going to have all of these experts, again, through the lens of how we can best serve clients and their families. And then the community will be there. So, it should be a really--we should get a lot of fantastic feedback from all of those folks, both, again, community members and the panelists. And, you know, we're just really looking forward to hearing from folks in Washtenaw County. 

Lisa Barry: So, the public is invited. Can you tell us when and where? 

Felicia Brabec: Yes. So it's a listening tour is going to be held at the Learning Resource Center on Hogback. We're going to start at 5:00 p.m. If you'd like to come in person, please register because, again, we're having a meeting to make--wanting to make--allowances for COVID. And so, please register. You can go to our site. There's a Facebook event. You can just register that way. We will also be streaming it on my state rep page as well. 

Lisa Barry: That's State Representative Felicia Brabec. Thanks for all you do for our mental health here in Washtenaw County. 

Felicia Brabec: Thanks, Lisa. So happy to be with you today. 

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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