A local lawmaker who co-chairs a mental health task force says they’re moving forward with legislation to prevent substance abuse and improve mental health treatment.

Republican State Representative Hank Vaupel of Handy Township co-chairs the CARES or Community, Access, Resources, Education, Safety mental health task force. The task force recently unveiled a report and recommendations to make significant improvements to what many feel is Michigan’s broken mental health system. Vaupel says this is not a report that will just sit on a shelf, stressing it is a priority and they will be acting on it.

Vaupel also chairs the House Health Policy Committee. He says there are two bills they’ll be hearing in committee designed to prevent substance abuse while improving mental health treatment. One involves funneling some of the liquor tax funds to use for substance use disorders. Vaupel says they are also working on another bill that will allow emergency responders to be able to find treatment in the health professional recovery program, and open that up a little bit for more eligibility for people so they can actually seek help when they need it.

The CARES report is said to offer solutions to problems brought forward by real people, officials and organizations impacted by mental health care in the state. The bi-partisan CARES task force was created with a goal of reducing barriers to access mental health care, enhance current services, and improve current programs. (JM)