May is mental health awareness month. Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders struggle with mental health issues every year. Many of them depend on the state’s community mental health services to get help.
Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal would change the way those services are funded, turning over $2.4 billion from the public mental health system to private insurance companies and Medicaid health plans. That proposal has already been stripped from the budget that cleared the state House last week. But the debate over mental health funding continues in Lansing.
Tom Watkins, President and CEO Detroit-Wayne Mental Health Authority, joins Detroit Today to talk about efforts to privatize mental health services in Michigan.
“We’ve won the battle,” says Watkins, noting the proposal is unlikely to clear the state Legislature. “The war rages on. But we’ll continue to fight it for our community.”
Watkins insists private companies cannot be trusted to put mental health patients first, saying “the issue with privatization is the ‘profitization’ of the public mental health dollar… When I look at my 401(k), I want companies to do well. But I don’t want them to do well on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
To hear the full conversation, click on the audio link above.