Retired behavioral health workers returning to work will be allowed to keep their pensions under a local legislator’s plan that has recently received approval.

The Michigan House on Tuesday approved the plan from State Representative Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville. Vaupel, who chairs the House Health Policy Committee, said the issue of a shortage of state psych workers was brought to his attention during last year’s House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force statewide tour. The tour aimed to find ways to improve Michigan’s mental health system by listening to mental health experts, families of patients and law enforcement officials.

Vaupel’s bill would allow certain retired mental health professionals to come back to work with the Department of Health and Human Services without forfeiting their pension benefits. Vaupel says, “Many retired employees would consider returning to public psychiatric care if it didn’t mean losing their pension income.” He feels the measure prevents that from happening and will ultimately help ensure more state psychiatric jobs are filled by specialized and experienced individuals.

The state already allows retired psychiatrists to continue to keep their pensions during re-employment with the state. Vaupel contends the state should extend this opportunity to other mental health care professionals such as physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, counselors and therapists to combat serious shortages in such roles. House Bill 4156 now moves to the state Senate for consideration.