Jeff Yaroch State Representative

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Forum held to outline funding concerns for community mental health programming

MACOMB COUNTY — Officials from Macomb County’s Community Mental Health program urged state legislators during a Feb. 17 forum to address funding problems for services they provide to residents in need.

The issue at hand is that CMH has already lost 14.4 percent (about $18 million) of its Medicaid funding since April 1, 2016, and it is expected to lose another $12.5 million in funding starting this upcoming April 1.

John Kinch, the executive director of CMH, said Medicaid funding per county used to primarily be based on how much counties spent, but it is now being distributed on a state average. Therefore, Macomb County is seeing its funding reduced, while other counties see increases.

“We have been pretty progressive and have been able to offer community inclusion and self-determination to our consumers,” Kinch said. “Now we’re on the losing end of that, so the product of this rebase is moving to a state average and the moneys are leaving Macomb County and being redistributed to other community mental health services programs.”

CMH serves about 15,000 county residents, young and old, who have serious mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, like autism. The program also provides staffing for families to monitor and care for individuals with those disabilities through Community Living Support systems.

Staff works with individuals on tasks like personal hygiene, home maintenance, money management, shopping and attending community events. They also help with medications, cooking, safety and transportation. About 2,000 county residents receive CLS services.

Through receiving CLS benefits, CMH officials said that many individuals have been able to live in apartments separate from their families, but with the help of aides.

“Many of our consumers have been offered the opportunity to live alone in their least restrictive environment. They don’t want to be in a group home,” Kinch said. “They want to be on their own, so we should be able to afford CLS benefits in their apartment, and allow them to have community inclusion and to make their own choices.”

Kinch said the majority of the negative impacts resulting from the already-reduced funding is in the delivery of CLS programs from consumers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Four individuals with family members who receive CLS benefits spoke during the forum and expressed the need for CLS benefits to be continued and not reduced.

Tony Plewa, 73, of Shelby Township, described the challenges facing his family now that his son, Ron, 46, who lives with autism, has been denied overnight staffing due to a lack of funding.

The Plewa family must now pay out-of-pocket for a 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. shift to monitor Ron, who lives in his own apartment.

“We require overnight staffing because of his disability, and the result is we will end up paying cash for the services we’re getting, and we can’t keep with that,” Plewa said. “It’s threatening to dissolve his current home, and we must look for another option which would not be the least restrictive option.”

Plewa said he does not want Ron to be forced to live with him, other family members or a group home, and he hopes that the county and state can provide a sustainable strategy for his care long-term.

“Funding (for autism) is being directed mostly to children and entry-level, but autism is lifelong, and we cannot forget the adults,” Plewa said. “My son has a tendency to outlive all of us.”

Many local state legislators attended the forum, and some briefly spoke on ways they plan to ensure CMH can continue to operate the way it has in the past.

Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, said that this is a nonpartisan issue, and he and other Macomb legislators are working to maintain the CMH programming.

“As far as what we hope, we’d like to preserve the services we have,” Yaroch said. “There’s a lot of people who are having a really hard time out there right now, but I’m very confident the county representatives and senators are working for the best interests of Macomb County.”

To read the whole story at C&G, click the link:

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