The region gained 112 mental health providers from 2018 to 2019 in an effort to address a mental health provider shortage, with gains seen across four counties and all provider types.
In order to rank in the top ten percent of communities for mental health resources, a community needs to have a ratio of one provider to every 330 residents.
In 2018, the Great Lakes Bay Region Mental Health Partnership identified a gap in the number of providers (including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, certified mental health counselors, psychiatric nurse practitioners, substance counselors, etc) using County Health Rankings data.
Based on annual data from county health rankings, the region has seen a significant increase in the number of mental health providers across all licenses from 2018 to 2019, for a total increase of 112 health providers in just one year. Progress was recorded throughout the region, with each county showing individual gains compared to 2018. Data for 2020 is expected by April 2021.
In 2018, a gap of 311 providers was identified.
Beyond just the numbers, a component is also making a culture shift in prioritizing mental health in the region.
“These are proactive efforts that are contributing significantly towards shifting the culture around mental health in our region,” says Samocki. “We are working with our partners to reduce mental health stigma and increasing the focus of employee wellness programs and services.”
In 2019, the gap narrowed to 199 providers.
Several institutions have focused on adding licenses and study programs for current students and postgraduate study, particularly Saginaw Valley State University and Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine.
In May 2019, SVSU started a post-graduate Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certificate program for nurse practitioners looking to extend their awareness and education in behavioral health.
The program is four semesters in length and graduates are eligible to sit for the PMHNP national certification exam.
“Our first cohort of 13 graduated in August of 2020 from the program, with six graduates taking and passing the exam so far,” says Dr. Kathleen Schachman, H.R. Wickes Endowed Chair of Nursing and PMHNP Coordinator.
The second cohort of the program nearly tripled in size at 38 students who will graduate in August 2021 and SVSU is in the process of completing admissions for their third cohort for August 2022 completion.
Dr. Kathleen Schachman
The program is one of only two or three other programs in the U.S. that also have a focus on addiction and the only one that has a dual focus on the rural and addiction components of behavioral health.
“The grant funding has certainly driven additional interest for our second year of the program, but beyond the four years of the grant timeline, we see this program continuing to grow,” says Schachman. “About half of our students now receive grant support, but behavioral health is where we are seeing the most growth in our nursing program. There is tremendous interest, even without the grant stipend, as nurses are recognizing this is a tremendously important skillset to have.”
“We expect the demand in this program to be quite high, even once the grant funds run out,” says Schachman. “So, we are looking at options of expanding the program and possibly making it a doctoral program for nurse practitioners who are interested in pursuing their doctoral degrees.”
Gains in mental health resources have been made across all four regions and among all providers.
As the accredited program has grown over the last five years, CMU has doubled the number of residents per year, thanks in part to collaborative efforts with Ascension St. Mary, Covenant Healthcare and HealthSource in Saginaw.
The shift and additional provider capacity has helped address the dire need for mental health services in the region and state.
Mental health at work
The need for awareness and resources is one that Fisher Contracting Company has championed as part of a pilot program that started in 2019. “Mental health was always one of those things we knew was important, but
Dr. Furhut Janssen
That effort has led to scaling their Workplace Mental Health Program to companies across the Great Lakes Bay Region, so that it is easier for people to identify and connect with quality mental health resources and providers through their workplace health plans.
Through Fisher Contracting’s pilot program in 2019, which covered the organization’s more than 200 employees, the program has been expanded to all of the Fisher Companies. Employees and their families now have mental health coverage equal to their medical coverage. Fisher’s Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) provides each family with five free visits to mental health providers, and after that insurance is billed after a $30 copay.
“The program has been hugely successful with our employees and their families,” says J.W. Fisher. “But beyond that, it has brought about a culture shift within our compnay, where it is ok to ask for help when you need it.”