The $50 million earmarked for Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services this year is part of a new state budget that steers hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding to improve access to behavioral health care and increase capacity.
The appropriation for a new pediatric facility at Pine Rest is among $233.1 million included in supplemental spending for mental health infrastructure alone around Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and top GOP lawmakers announced the budget deal late last week. Pine Rest executives declined to comment on the allocation until Whitmer formally signs it.
However, the funding levels statewide signify a major focus on mental health care.
“Michigan lacks adequate capacity to treat patients with behavioral and mental illness, and this new funding is an important and necessary step to address the shortage,” said Michigan Health & Hospital Association CEO Brian Peters.
Between the supplemental spending for the present fiscal year and allocations for the new budget that starts Oct. 1, the latest agreement between lawmakers and Whitmer directs more than $600 million in state investments toward mental programs and infrastructure.
State Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township in Allegan County, said the budget is “truly the most comprehensive investment in behavioral health that the state has ever seen.” Whiteford also serves as vice chairperson of the House Appropriations Committee.
“Mental health care is more accessible to the people of Michigan than ever before and will continue to improve for years to come thanks to this plan,” Whiteford said in a statement.
The funding “to my knowledge is one of the biggest in behavioral health in recent memory,” said Adam Carlson, senior vice president for advocacy at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
“We think that will have a pretty lasting impact for the delivery of behavioral health care services,” Carlson told MiBiz. “There’s more that we need to do in terms of ongoing, long-term support, but a lot of these one-time funds can really go to help build out our infrastructure to improve access to behavioral health care.”
Much of the state money allocated in the budget for mental health — $325 million — will go to build a new state psychiatric hospital in Northville to replace the aging 55-bed Hawthorn Center and nearly double capacity to 100 total beds.
Other allocations for mental health care beyond the Hawthorn Center replacement and the $50 million for Pine Rest include:
- $30 million to establish crisis units across the state;
- $50 million for competitive grants to expand pediatric psychiatric capacity across the state;
- $10 million to establish psychiatric residential treatment facilities;
- $11 million for the University of Michigan Medicine children’s emergency psychiatry and day program for children and adults;
- $3 million for pediatric psychiatric services in Kalamazoo or Berrien counties; and
- $45 million for an integrated psychiatric campus in Detroit.
The budget also directs $10 million into a loan repayment program for health professionals. Last winter, lawmakers added mental health to the list of professionals who are eligible to access to the fund, which pays up to $300,000 in student debt relief for people who serve in a rural or underserved market for at least three years and up to 10 years, Carlson said.
Increasing state support for mental health care has long been needed, but the COVID-19 pandemic drove the need far higher, Carlson added.
“We know the need has been growing since the pandemic and continues to grow and it has not gone away, so this is extremely important,” Carlson said. “It’s been a need in Michigan for a long time. The pandemic really put it under a microscope and drew a lot of attention to it that wasn’t there before.”
“Lawmakers are hearing from their constituents, and they’re hearing from people in the community about the significant need for these behavioral health care resources,” he added.
In other health care funding, the state budget supports graduate medical education, the Healthy Michigan Plan for Medicaid and reimbursements to rural care providers, Carlson said.
As well, the budget directs $56 million for a program to assist nurses with an associate’s degree earned at a community college to earn a bachelor’s at a university through partnerships, he said.
“The investment of state funds to expand access to bachelor of science in nursing degree programs at the state’s community colleges is a significant movement towards replenishing Michigan’s health care talent pipeline,” Peters said.
The budget also provides one-time infrastructure grants to a few hospitals, including $10 million for Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.
Sturgis Hospital, which has been struggling financially and was on track to close this month, received $11 million in supplemental spending this budget year to provide bridge financing as it seeks to change federal designation to qualify for better Medicaid and Medicaid reimbursements and pursue a possible buyer.