New legislation introduced by a mental health task force co-chaired by a local lawmaker.

A bipartisan group of legislators were appointed to the House CARES Task Force to investigate the needs of what many feel is Michigan’s broken mental health system. The task force was named for its mission – to improve Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety for the state’s mental health community – and the legislation is the result of a report released in January. Republican State Representative Hank Vaupel of Handy Township and Democratic State Representative Patrick Green of Warren have introduced House Bills 5460 and 5461. The bills would require drug overdose training for peace officers, medical first responders and paramedics to combat the exponential growth in instances of opioid overdose.

Other bills introduced would combat the growing shortage of mental health care professionals by expanding Michigan’s talent pool; help local agencies fight substance abuse by dedicating a portion of the revenues raised through state liquor taxes to local community mental health agencies; ensure availability of psychiatric beds for patients experiencing a mental health crisis by creating a new state database to include the number and location of available beds at health care facilities throughout Michigan; and require clinicians to complete parole psychological evaluations within 45 days of the parole board’s request to ensure parole decisions are not unnecessarily delayed.

Vaupel says the legislation is just the beginning and there’s a lot more to come, adding every measure they introduce continues to be directly inspired by the stories and suggestions of real people.

The task force report can be viewed through the link provided, and a press release detailing the legislation is attached. (JM)