Location Identified, $5 Million in ARPA Funding Approved for Mental Health Center
By Beth Milligan | June 22, 2023
A location has been identified and $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding approved for a new regional mental health center. Grand Traverse County commissioners Wednesday unanimously approved an ARPA application from Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority (CMH) to create a center providing 24-hour behavioral health crisis services for both adults and children, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. The new Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness is proposed to be located at 420 Brook Street in Munson Healthcare’s behavioral health services building (pictured), which would be renovated and repurposed for the project.
County commissioners previously voted last December to set aside up to $5 million in ARPA funding for mental health services/infrastructure. A new wellness center was discussed as a possible use for those funds, but commissioners left the exact projects/funding recipients to be decided in the future once plans were more concrete. CMH and Munson are part of a leadership team with Grand Traverse County, Northern Michigan Regional Entity (NMRE), Community Health Innovation Region, and United Way of Northwest Michigan that have been working to put a specific proposal together for the center. That proposal was presented to commissioners Wednesday, who agreed to make CMH the recipient of the $5 million in ARPA funding.
According to CMH and Munson representatives, the new center will be developed in three phases. Phase one will bring “existing access, substance use disorder, and crisis services into a single building with services available 365/24/7 to all residents, regardless of age, insurance type, or ability to pay,” according to project documents. Munson COO Laura Glenn clarified that residents means anyone in need of services, even if they live outside of Grand Traverse County or are just visiting the area.
Phase one services will include CMH Access services, crisis phone screening, a crisis hotline, mobile crisis services, a new CMH Welcoming Center, referrals/scheduling, and intervention services. Brief outpatient therapy, peer support services, and care coordination will also be offered. The center will provide space for partner community organizations – such as Addiction Treatment Services – to promote access to resources/support while “also allowing for improved care collaboration,” according to the proposal. “Services not directly provided at the center will be accessible through partnerships and preferred referral relationships.” Staff including master’s level clinicians, peer specialists, resource specialists, and care coordinators like community health workers will be at the center during phase one.
Services would be added or expanded in additional phases as the center is developed, staff are hired, and resources are secured. “In phase two, nursing and psychiatric assessments will be added, and phase three would incorporate a Crisis Residential Unit (CRU) and/or Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) beds for youth and adults,” according to project documents.
The ARPA funding will help cover renovations at 420 Brook Street to prepare it to serve as the new center. Munson will continue to own the building, with CMH providing programming. The total price tag for the phase one launch – including renovations and start-up costs – is estimated at $9.8 million. Grants, including some already awarded and some that have been applied for, will help close the funding gap, project representatives said. They noted that significant grants are currently available on the state and national level for mental health services, with private insurance providers also increasingly willing to cover crisis services. The goal is to use grant funding in the beginning to launch the center and build toward a self-sustaining model that will include insurance payments from insured clients. However, representatives reiterated that anyone will be able to get help at the center, regardless of insurance status.
Glenn said repurposing Munson’s behavioral health services building – which is approximately 20,000 square feet – offers the “best option for services,” since it’s in close proximity to the emergency room. One of the main goals for the Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness is connecting people with specialized crisis services instead of those individuals going to the emergency room or jail, locations where they often end up today that are ill-equipped to provide mental healthcare. Numerous staff from Munson’s emergency department spoke in favor Wednesday of the project, citing the stress on emergency rooms from behavioral health patients and the lack of adequate resources for them there.
Representatives shared statistics to demonstrate local demand. In 2021 alone, more than 950 people were treated at Munson Medical Center’s Traverse City emergency department for a suicidal-related diagnosis. “Grand Traverse 911 took more than 800 suicidal or mental health-related calls, and the Grand Traverse County Sheriff took nearly 500 separate calls that same year,” according to project documents. “The demand has continued as local communities emerged from the pandemic.”
Representatives stressed that the new center would be a collaborative community project between multiple organizations, not just Munson and CMH. In addition to the leadership team that worked on the proposal – which will transition to an operational leadership team when the center opens – a community advisory group will also provide regular input. That group, which started meeting monthly in April and is planned to have 25-30 members, will include representatives from local nonprofits, institutions, funders, community members, family members, and individuals who have personal experience with behavioral health disorders. The leadership team also plans to hire a dedicated director to oversee the center.
Glenn said that – contingent on timing for lining up architects, construction firms, and materials – the Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness could open for phase-one services by the end of 2024. Numerous residents spoke in favor of the project Wednesday during public comment, sharing emotional stories about family members – including some who died by suicide – whose lives could’ve been changed if they had access to better mental health services. In a statement, CMH Interim CEO Brian Martinus acknowledged that local need, which he hopes the center will address.
“We are grateful for the community’s engagement in addressing this complex problem and the Grand Traverse County commission’s consideration regarding use of the federal funds,” he said. “With a vision, strong local partnerships, and community momentum, we are positioned to increase access to quality mental health services in northern Michigan – another important piece to the puzzle we’re trying to solve to get people the support they need.”Comment