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. Council Members need not, and should not, devote significant resources to a needs assessment.
Two Recent Excellent Studies of Mental Health Services Needs
1. The highly respected Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT), University of Michigan, released Mental health services in Washtenaw County in late 2021. CHRT summarized its key findings as follows (quoting the report).
The Crisis, Access, Resources, Engagement and Support (CARES) services have improved access to behavioral health services, especially for those previously struggling to find services in the community, and for those in crisis.
Millage funding for programs and services focused on jail diversion have created opportunities for law enforcement and behavioral health providers to work together to serve county residents more effectively, and to ensure that individuals with behavioral health needs get more timely evaluation and appropriate services.
The most substantial persistent gaps in behavioral health services are in services for youth, including substance use and harm reduction services, residential services, and targeted programming for at-risk subpopulations. Additional gaps include rural areas of the county are underserved by behavioral health services; lack of adequate supply of supportive housing; and continued inadequate supply of behavioral health providers and long wait times for psychiatric emergency services.
2. "In 2021 St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor (SJMAA), St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea (SJMC), and Michigan Medicine (MM) convened for the third time to conduct a single Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for the shared geographic region of greater Washtenaw County. With facilitation support from the Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI), the collaborative, known as the Unified Needs Assessment Implementation Plan Team Engagement (UNITE), assembled and assessed data in partnership with Washtenaw County Public Health Department and area health coalitions." (CHNA, p. 1). The assessment revealed the top three priority areas should be (CHNA, p. 1):
• Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
• Obesity and Related Illnesses
• Pre-conceptual and Perinatal Health
The UNITE coalition formulated a followup Implementation Strategy which is also a valuable resource.
The following two assessments of needs were issued a few years ago and remain important guides to needed action.
3. The Community Mental Health Advisory Committee (CMHAC) released an excellent 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 focused on Washtenaw County which of course includes Ann Arbor, and dealt 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.
4. Working in 2017 and early 2018, 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.