EAGLE RIVER – Leslie Griffith, Head of the Outpatient Program at Copper Country Mental Health (CCMH), spoke at the mental health presentation on Jan. One of these problems is the availability of inpatient beds for adolescents.
Griffith said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is recognizing a major shortage of inpatient beds for adolescents in particular, culminating in a recent meeting on the issue. The focus of the meeting, she said, focused on a few options for the state of Michigan to consider.
“Some of the people at that meeting talked about a youngster sitting in emergency rooms (rescue rooms) for up to three weeks.” She said.
Fortunately, she said the scenario didn’t play out in the four-county area, at least not for that long, but it remains a problem across the state.
In fact, a workshop report published by the Michigan Inpatient Psychiatric Admissions Discussion in 2018 found that there were 729 inpatient psychiatric beds for children and adolescents in community hospitals in 1993. By 2017 that number had dropped to 276.
There are currently a total of 389 inpatient psychiatric beds for children and adolescents.
According to michigan.gov/mdhhs, there have been two facilities on the Upper Peninsula since May 3 that provide psychiatric beds. UP Health System – Marquette, which has 37 licensed adult and six pediatric beds, and Chippewa County’s War Memorial Hospital in Kinchelo, which has 20 adult psychiatric beds, do not have any pediatric beds.
A statewide inventory of beds for mentally developed disabilities listed no such units in the Upper Peninsula, and only three facilities in the state in Detroit, Pontiac and Kalamazoo with unmet bed needs in excess of 173.
Rural Insights, a primary research and information resource for the Upper Peninsula, released a report written by Isabelle Nebel and Brian Cherry on April 2, 2020 that found the number of children and adolescents who commit or attempt suicide in a year to rise in a dramatic and disturbing way. Officially, suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers between the ages of 15 and 24, and for every suicide death in this population there can be between 100 and 200 attempted suicide.
According to the Office for Youth Health, access to care in 2018 generally comprised three components:
– Access to healthcare, usually through insurance.
– Access to a location where required health services are provided based on geographical availability.
– Finding a healthcare provider that the patient trusts and can communicate with. As examined in this report, the Upper Peninsula in Michigan lacks adequacy in all three access areas.
Rural Insights found that while it is common for people to experience transient emotional distress throughout childhood, the rate of mental health diagnoses is alarming for a variety of reasons. Children do not receive the mental health services they need to live healthy and productive lives. In the case of the upper peninsula, geography exacerbates the problem. Its rural nature creates additional barriers to access to psychiatric care, exacerbating the national shortage of doctors and psychiatrists, where only one child psychiatrist oversees the entire Upper Peninsula.
“There are no inpatient beds for children with severe mental illnesses” The Rural Insights Report states “And instead they are driven up to nine hours away from home to a facility in either Grand Rapids or Green Bay. The financial costs of psychiatric care can prove to be too high a burden for Medicaid carriers, private insurance carriers and especially for the uninsured. “
Neither of these problems is new to the Upper Peninsula. In 2018, the Department of Health of the Western Upper Peninsula conducted a Health Needs Assessment of the Upper Peninsula Community, which found that every UP county except Marquette is a federally designated HPSA (Health Professional Shortage Area) for mental health care based on the Number of psychiatrists per capita. There are only 39 inpatient beds and 8 full-time psychiatrists throughout the UP serving the population of 311,000, about one psychiatrist for every 39,000 people. There is no full-time job for child psychiatrists in the district.
The report also said that out of 10 UP counties where Grade 12 participated in the Community That Care Youth Risk and Protective Factors Survey in 2016-18, more than 45 percent of students in two counties had over Symptoms of depression reported and in another six counties between 31 and 45% reported symptoms of depression. In addition, nearly a quarter of adults in the Upper Peninsula were taking medication to support mood, emotions, or mental health, and 8% received advice from a psychiatrist the previous year.