Mental Health Services Needs Assessments
Widespread recognition of the inadequacy of current mental health services has led to multiple studies identifying pressing needs. These studies should increase the confidence of City Council members that additional funds for mental health services would be wisely allocated. The studies also serve as important resources to those officials charged with implementing the funding strategy; see the section on Coordinated Funding for a suggested process. It would be unwise and wasteful for Council members to devote major resources to a needs assessment.
Two High Priority Tasks for Council Members
Members of CMHPS suggest there are two high priority tasks for Council members. Neither is costly.
1. Members of City Council should become familiar with the content of the first study noted below and with at least one of the other studies. If it is most efficient for Council members, experts could make a presentation on these studies and related information at the outset of a Council Work Session. This procedure would have the added benefits of giving an opportunity for Council members to share observations with each other and of providing information to the listening public.
2. Council members should sponsor public forums on how millage funds will be used and the process by which the funds for mental health services will be allocated. These issues have been sufficiently controversial that the public needs and deserves the opportunity to receive information and provide feedback. We suggest three forums, all with identical briefing content, in geographically dispersed locations, e.g., Huron, Pioneer, and Skyline High Schools. Council members need not attend all three forums; attending the forum(s) containing the ward where the member lives would be desirable. The community conversations conducted by the Community Mental Health Advisory Committee (CMHAC) could serve as a model.
Three Excellent Studies of Mental Health Services Needs
We suggest the following three studies are excellent starting points.
1. The Community Mental Health Advisory Committee (CMHAC) did excellent work. They released their report as of June 26, 2018. The Community Mental Health Board reviewed the report and made several amendments as of July 20, 2018. This concise 13-page report a) is up-to-date, b) focused on Washtenaw County which of course includes Ann Arbor, and c) deals explicitly with the best use of the funds generated by the Mental Health and Public Safety Millage. Their report is Community Mental Health Advisory Recommendations. The Report includes links to important materials for those wanting details and background.
2. Just four months ago, seven agencies and nonprofits were partners in producing an “assessment of crisis services within Washtenaw County … to provide the community a current reality of the services available to individuals experiencing a mental health and/‘or substance use disorder crisis.” (p. 1) Their report is Washtenaw Crisis Services Assessment, Version 3.1, March 14, 2018. An excellent one-page Executive Summary summarizes the “four main needs that arose” and three recommendations. We strongly suggest City of Ann Arbor officials read the entire report for a better understanding of unmet needs in our community and of the benefits of additional funding for mental health services.
3. Washtenaw County Mental Health and Substance Use Service Gaps Assessment, July 2016, is an excellent report on local needs in mental health services. It was prepared by the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT) (link), a locally based nonprofit with an outstanding national reputation. The report includes important, timely input from numerous local agencies and nonprofits. Its findings are as relevant as they were 23 months ago when it was released. It is an important resource to the Washtenaw Health Initiative and to WCCMH. City officials should be reassured knowing this assessment is being used in allocating dollars for mental health services from the Mental Health and Public Safety Millage.