Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. November 19, 2022.

Editorial: Gov must tackle mental health

Michigan’s broken mental health system has left those who need help with mental health issues empty-handed.

Decades of disinvestment and short-term fixes led by Republican and Democratic leaders alike has resulted in a system that is overrun and poorly managed.

Meanwhile the rates of mental illness are skyrocketing, as evident in police interactions with mentally disturbed individuals on the streets and in schools. And the mental health counselors who are on the front lines of the crisis are underpaid and can’t keep up with caseloads.

This unrelenting problem must be a priority for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature in the new term. Fortunately, the governor agrees mental health is at a critical point, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our mental health system was dismantled four governors ago and we have never as a state really addressed it and created the mental health supports that people need,” Whitmer said to The Detroit News editorial board last month.

“I recognize there’s more good work to do here,” she said.

Of course, that was true when Whitmer took office four years ago, and she did little to address the issue. This term, her expressed concern must be followed up with action.

With her party in full control of the Legislature, she has no excuse not to implement a comprehensive plan to address bureaucratic waste and limited access to services, especially for juveniles, and fully explore how mental health intersects with crime, school safety and education, and poverty and homelessness.

Some steps she should take:

— Streamline the structure of Community Health Boards, which have local control of state-funded treatment and services, and also that of the 10 regional Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans. Both entities are encumbered by bureaucratic inefficiency and lack the flexibility to respond to urgent needs.

— Improve pay and working conditions for the most skilled mental health counselors to keep them where they’re needed most — providing personal care. Too often, those who work in the mental health system are not much better off financially than those they serve. “I’ve got mental health workers who come down to visit clients, and while they’re here they get diapers and shoes because they can’t afford to take care of their own families,” says Randy Richardville, the former Republican Senate majority leader and executive director of Oaks of Righteousness Village in Monroe.

— Beef up services in rural areas that have become mental health care deserts, without consistent services for those in need.

— Make Community Mental Health systems more accountable and efficient. Creating common medical files for providers and standardizing services would help. “Clearly more can and should be done in the existing public system of care to reduce administrative overhead and redirect to service — not profit,” says Tom Watkins, a former state mental health director.

— Open more long-term and short-term mental health facilities capable of taking in the homeless and those who might otherwise end up in jail.

The consequences of neglecting mental health are increasingly becoming public. Confrontations between police and mentally ill individuals have turned deadly. Police departments are the default agencies for dealing with the mentally unstable. People who should be in medical treatment facilities are too often landing in jails that are not equipped to treat or house them.

Detroit Police Chief James White calls it an ongoing “mental health crisis,” as do sheriffs and law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Detroit police officers this year are responding to an average of 64 mental health runs per day — more than three times as many mental health-related 911 calls as in 2020, according to DPD data.

Whitmer pointed to her investments in adding school mental health counselors and social workers to the state’s roster, but there simply are not enough. In schools, mental health is the No. 1 behavioral issue. Rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in kids and teens are up sharply since the COVID pandemic.

The governor says building more juvenile psychiatric facilities is a priority. That’s important, considering how ill-equipped some foster facilities are to handle those in the state’s care.

The need for leadership on an issue affecting so many Michiganians has never been so clear. Whitmer and the incoming Legislature should tackle this on Day One.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. November 16, 2022.

Editorial: Winter is a skill that needs sharpening

We knew it couldn’t last.

Still, we stuffed our hopes into those 70-degree days, another cookout, another sneaker-clad hike, a last boat ride, as if the November balm was infinite.

But, of course, the mercury fell faster than those ill-fated turkeys in Cincinnati, and no one will be wearing shorts this Thanksgiving.

When the weather changes, it takes a minute to dig out our winter selves from the back shelves behind the sandals and sand pails. It takes a beat to remember where the ice scrapers are, and that glaze isn’t just for doughnuts. It takes an adjustment to ratchet our freewheeling summer spontaneity to planning for the worst winter can throw at us.

In that spirit, we offer a few reminders:

Refresh your terms: These words that we banish in the warm months now come flying back at us from the National Weather Service, which defines blizzards as sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 mph or more with snow and blowing snow (visibility to less than a quarter mile for 3 hours or more); snow squalls as brief, intense snow showers accompanied by strong, gusty winds with intense accumulation; snow showers as falling at varying intensities for brief periods of time with varying accumulation; and flurries as light snow falling for short durations with little or no accumulation. Wind chills also can be listed as warnings and watches when extreme cold is predicted.

Drive slow on snow and ice: According to Michigan.gov, there were 202,232 crashes reported in Michigan on icy, snowy, or slushy roads between 2016-2020 winter seasons, that killed 370 people and seriously injured 2,530 others.

Prepare, prepare, prepare: Put a few extra items in your car just in case, like a first aid kit, medications, a shovel, litter or sand for traction, warm clothes and snacks.

Ice fun: Don’t venture near cracks, holes or breaks in the ice, ice with flowing water around the edges, below the surface, or on top, or ice that looks thawed and refrozen. For ice sports, remember it must be 4 inches or more for ice fishing, ice skating and walking; at least 5 inches for snowmobiles and ATVs; 8-12 inches for cars and 12-15 inches for medium duty trucks.

Take it easy: Shoulders back, core tight, lift with your legs — the snow shoveling marathon has begun and your back and heart must last to the finish line.

Check your nest: Fresh furnace filters and humidifiers can improve your quality of life at home and working carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms can potentially save it.

By January, we’ll be pros. We and winter will be hand in glove, with every freeze and storm down pat. But dusting off our winter skills is an adjustment, one best taken slow and safe.

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Iron Mountain Daily News. November 16, 2022.

Editorial: State says check insurance coverage for deer collisions

With the start of firearm hunting season Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services reminds people to review their auto insurance coverage to make sure they know what may be available for damage caused by a deer collision.

Though these types of crashes occur all year round, the hunt, coupled with shorter daylight periods, often increases the number of these crashes, which can cost thousands of dollars to repair.

“Auto insurance may not be at the top of your mind as we head into the colder months, but this is a good time of year to review your policy so you are prepared for unexpected mishaps, like hitting a deer with your car,” DIFS Director Anita Fox said. “… In most cases, you will need to buy an optional coverage called comprehensive insurance to cover damage caused by something other than a crash with another vehicle, so it is important to consider your family’s insurance needs and budget before a potential loss.”

Michigan annually has about 50,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. About 80% of these crashes happen on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn, especially during the spring and during fall hunting season. A recent AAA study reported Michiganders pay an average of $130 million each year to repair vehicle damage caused by collisions with deer.

Vehicle owners should discuss their current auto insurance policy with their licensed insurance agent or company to make sure they are protected against this type of damage. An optional comprehensive coverage will be needed in most cases. Comprehensive pays if the vehicle is stolen, or for repairs if damaged by a falling object, fire, flood, vandalism or collision with an animal.

A few tips on what to do after a deer collision:

— Pull off the road, turn on the emergency flashers and be cautious of other traffic if getting out of the vehicle.

— Report the crash to the nearest police agency and your insurance company or agent.

— Document the incident. If it’s safe to do so, take photographs of the roadway, surroundings, damage to your vehicle and any injuries to yourself or your passengers. If witnesses stop, take down their account of what occurred, and ask for their contact information.

— Do not approach the deer. Wounded animals can be dangerous, and an animal that appears to be dead may only be stunned.

— Don’t assume the vehicle is safe to drive. Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch, and other safety hazards. If the vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow.

Anyone with questions or concerns about an insurance policy or who wants to file a complaint can contact DIFS from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday at 833-ASK-DIFS (275-3437), or for complaints go online to Michigan.gov/DIFScomplaints.

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