Insurance changes put mental health programs at risk


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Changes to insurance and Medicaid are causing layoffs and the possible elimination of some mental health services in Kent County.

Network180, the community mental health authority for the county, says that means some people suffering from mental illness might have to find someplace else to go.

Network180 Executive Director Scott Gilman explained that people are switching from Disabled, Aged or Blind (DAB) to Healthy Michigan for Medicaid coverage, which is shrinking the amount of money that goes to local mental health providers.

“A great number of them have migrated to Healthy Michigan and as I said, they had that right. But the funding formula, it needs to be updated,” he said.

Gilman said to think of it like school funding. Schools get a set amount of money for each student. The same goes for county mental health with patients. However, the reimbursement for Healthy Michigan is roughly 80 percent less than DAB.

So far, 35 full-time positions have been laid off. Sixteen others are vacant and will not be filled. Gilman said phase two is cutting programs.

The reasons why people are switching to Healthy Michigan vary.

“There’s all different reasons. The ones that scare me are the ones that say, ‘I have no idea,'” Gilman said. “Because then I’m not sure that they are making an informed decision for them.”

Gilman doesn’t think the state is doing anything intentionally to get people on Healthy Michigan. Rather, it’s about convenience.

If Network180 doesn’t get more revenue soon, people will still have basic mental health treatment, but that’s it. Gilman says that’s not enough and the community will feel the repercussions. He says the cost to our community will be great.

Cheryl Taylor relies on one of the programs on the chopping block. She’s a mother and grandmother who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. More than a decade ago, while receiving treatment at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, she learned about Cherry Health’s Sheldon House in Grand Rapids. It’s a place that aids people suffering from all kinds of mental illnesses, from depression to bipolar disorder. Sheldon House serves about 150 people at any given time.

“My life has changed very much,” Taylor said. “I used to be introverted. I used to be a person that would stay in the bed, most of the day.”

She was scared of crowds, but Tuesday, she was at a packed meeting to advocate for Sheldon House.

“If Sheldon House was shut down, I don’t really know what I would do, I would probably be dead,” Taylor said.

The only way to save the mental health support services is to bring in more revenue quickly, which is unlikely.

The governor’s office said it was unaware of the problem before hearing from 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday and is now looking into it.