New Legislation to Improve Local Responses to Mental Health Emergencies
January 6, 2022
Two bills which recently passed through the Michigan Legislature are aimed at providing resources for law enforcement agencies when responding to emergency calls involving an individual in the midst of a mental crisis. Senate Bills 637 sponsored by State Senators Stephanie Chang (D-Dist. 1) and Rick Outman (R-Dist. 33) and 638 sponsored by Outman, will improve the ability of law enforcement agencies and personnel to handle behavioral health issues. "When enacted, these bipartisan, forward-thinking bills will make a big difference for vulnerable residents and public safety in our state," said Chang. "Our bills will change the ways we respond to behavioral health emergencies in Michigan by ensuring people facing mental health crises get the help they need and are directed to services rather than unnecessarily spending time in jail.
Both bills, introduced in October, passed the Senate and House in December with overwhelming support from both parties. The bills were signed by Governor Whitmer on December 27. SB 637 will create a community crisis response fund, in accordance with the recommendations of Whitmer's Mental Health Diversion Council. SB 638 creates a behavioral health jail diversion fund which will be used to establish or expand jail diversion programs in the state. Under the new law, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will distribute grants to local units to establish or expand crisis intervention services.
MDHHS released a statement saying, "We are excited to see the passage of these bills and appreciate the efforts and partnership with the Department of Senator Chang and the many stakeholders involved in their conceptualization, as they offer additional opportunities for communities to work both in crisis service sand in jail diversion to help keep individuals with mental health needs in treatment in lieu of criminalizing their behaviors. The Department will be reviewing, with the guidance of the Diversion Council, the best strategies to implement the funding that was allocated to help execute the vision of the legislation."
The new laws will provide resources to police agencies to enable them to have specially trained personnel to handle cases involving behavioral health crises. Such individuals can be directed to treatment rather than linger in a jail cell. "A large percentage of inmates are in jails and prisons as a result of being mentally ill or some other form of mental crisis, and unfortunately, there are not enough resources currently available to treat these people outside of corrections," says Westland's Deputy Police Chief Rich Kummert. "Hopefully, with increased funding to mental illness programs we can get these people both early and long-term treatment and break this cycle."
To find out more on the new law see Senator Stephanie Chang's website at http://www.senatedems.com/chang/.