A bipartisan commission of legislators recommended three goals Tuesday designed to improve help for those suffering from mental illnesses.
The group, consisting of Lt. Gov Brian Calley, Michigan Department of Community Health Director James Haveman, and Republicans and Democrats of the state House and Senate unveiled their recommendations in a 29-page report that called for:
■Advancing opportunities for independence for people with a mental illness, developmental disability or substance abuse problems.
■Better access to coordinated and service between agencies and across geographical boundaries.
■Measuring outcomes to help evaluate the effectiveness of services.
The legislators engaged in public hearings from Marquette to Detroit, Calley said. One of the goals is to allow people to become more independent.
“All of it is about making the services that we provide work better, become more effective and more accessible to our citizenry,” Calley said in a teleconference from Lansing.
Another goal is removing the stigma of mental illness, said Calley, whose daughter has autism and who pushed for legislation requiring insurance coverage for autism therapy in Michigan.
“Speaking up and saying, ‘Yeah, I’m one of these families that is dealing with the struggles of having a child with a developmental disability,’ that’s not easy. I’m kind of ashamed to say — but I’ve said it in public before — I was embarrassed in the beginning because I was afraid people would say I’ve done something wrong.”
In the end, he said, it was “empowering” to overcome that feeling and say “we are not going to hide any longer.”
The panel recommended legislation requiring state departments to use the same standards in forms and standardizing.
“Why not have a common assessment which would be a common platform we could work off?” Haveman said.
The report also calls for pilot programs that would test how to stop young people from being passed from foster care to residential care to psychiatric services and then back to their families.
“There’s a better way to coordinate this, and we’re calling for some pilots on how to coordinate this much better,” Haveman said.
The report can be viewed at michigan.gov/mentalhealth.