Addressing the behavioral health crisis in Michigan: Strategies for enhancing access and coverage

May 14, 2024

Michigan faces significant challenges in providing adequate behavioral health services, a crisis that has only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. A substantial portion of adults in Michigan suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders are not receiving necessary treatment. This is attributed to a lack of access to services, even for those with insurance coverage.

Coverage varies significantly by the severity of conditions, from mild-to-moderate conditions that impact daily life to moderate-to-severe conditions that limit major life activities. Michigan’s Medicaid program offers support through various plans, but gaps in coverage and payment persist. And managed care plans are struggling to meet network adequacy requirements due to a shortage of mental health professionals. Michigan needs more psychiatrists to meet the population’s needs, especially for children and adolescents who face long waits for services and have fewer available providers.

Strategies to improve access include enhancing the behavioral health workforce through loan repayment incentives, training programs, and expanding practice scopes for nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Additionally, improving insurance coverage, integrating physical and behavioral health services, and expanding community-based and crisis services are critical. These measures aim to reduce the reliance on emergency services and improve overall access to behavioral health care in Michigan.

This brief by Nailah Henry, Holly Q. Teague, and Nancy Baum highlights the urgent need for systematic changes and details recommended solutions.