This plan, in reality, will only exacerbate the already critical shortage of beds to treat people with mental illnesses in Michigan, with the Great Lakes Bay Region and Northern Michigan being hurt the most.
A study, conducted by a state-paid consultant, left out critical information about supportive services and programs in the Great Lakes Bay Region that most certainly would address the administration’s expressed concerns (staffing). The staffing issue is being felt across Michigan; not just the region where the Caro Center is located.
First, let’s recall what was stopped by the State of Michigan this year:
Construction on a new facility at Caro had already been fully vetted by the Michigan Legislature and was planned on property already secured for the purpose of health care. Ground had been broken on a new, large facility that had $115 million appropriated to create 200 beds, an increase of 25 percent over existing services and a vital step toward ending a statewide bed shortage.
Now, after months of delay, the state’s paid consultant suggests spending some money to update Caro, so it can hold 84 beds. So, the state ends up with 116 fewer beds than planned.
To achieve this “success,” the state will cut in half the capacity of Tuscola County’s second-largest employer with more than 400 employees and a total employment impact of more than 747 jobs. The economic impact of the Caro Center is approximately $54 million per year.
The Great Lakes Bay Region is a hub of medical providers, exceptional hospitals and medical education institutions, including Saginaw Valley State University which recently developed a Physician’s Assistant Program in Psychiatry. Both SVSU and Delta College offer in-demand nursing programs.
The CMU Medical School established a psychiatric residency program 5 years ago and recently created additional psychiatric residency positions. Two of the four graduates from the founding class are working in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
- In collaboration with local hospitals in Saginaw, CMU Medical School is starting a Child/Adolescent Psychiatry program effective July 1st. It has two positions per year.
- Through state funding (MiDOCS initiative), it is expanding the number of psychiatry residents by 2 effective July 1st. The additional residents have loan repayment guaranteed by the state and an obligation to practice in underserved areas in Michigan for 2 years after graduation.
- To support training programs and meet community needs, in partnership with HealthSource Saginaw (Countywide hospital), CMU Medical School recruited 9 psychiatrists in the past 3 years.
None of this was mentioned in the paid consultant’s report. Not one of the above mentioned entities were contacted by the paid consultant. We believe this is information that would have changed the recommendations in the report.
Had the state done nothing, work would be continuing in Caro to build a new, 200-bed mental health unit that would be an asset to the state and a vital cog in this region. By acting, ostensibly to give Michigan a better result, the state has delayed work and is on the brink of making a shortage of mental health beds even worse in the short term.
It is time to fulfill the original commitment to keep Caro at full capacity and build the new facility that was both funded and promised by the State of Michigan.
We call on Governor Whitmer to reject this consultants’ ideas, resume the existing replacement hospital project and help our region treat the critical needs of treating people with mental illness.