Dickinson to host talks on mental health ideas

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County Board hopes to reach a consensus with local stakeholders on mental health care needs in the community and present ideas and recommendations to state and federal lawmakers.

The goal was set during a discussion Monday with Jen Cescolini, CEO of Northpointe Behavioral Healthcare System, a provider of mental health services in Dickinson, Iron and Menominee counties.

Cescolini addressed the board to review teen suicide prevention efforts, but the conversation turned to adult services as well.

Commissioner Joe Stevens said mental health is “a number one concern” and suggested a roundtable meeting among agency leaders and other interested parties on “ideas that can be used in the future.”

Across the state, a shortage of psychiatric beds and mental health care professionals persists, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. In the Upper Peninsula the shortage has been especially felt since Newberry State Hospital closed in 1992.

“Law enforcement has been fighting this battle for decades,” Sheriff Scott Rutter told the board. “The biggest hurdle we face is trying to find placement.”

People in need of inpatient mental health care are held “a week at a time and we can’t find beds,” he said.

Getting lawmakers to work toward solutions should be the county’s main goal, Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. said, suggesting they might attend, too.

Controller Brian Bousley was directed to arrange the roundtable talks.

Michigan operates five inpatient hospitals for individuals who have severe mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities, all of them located downstate.

Cescolini said Northpointe has made progress in implementing psychiatric visits via telehealth at schools, which reduces missed classroom time and provides better collaboration with educators. Also, Northpointe staff is able to provide school-based mental health services, helping eliminate barriers for children in accessing services and further widening the overall support effort.

In the area of suicide prevention, beginning July 16, a new three-digit dialing code will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Cescolini said. When people call, text or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors to provide support and connect them to resources if necessary.

“This (988) is a very important thing to advertise,” she said.

Community mental health services in the Upper Peninsula are overseen through NorthCare Network by calling 1-888-906-9060. Crisis screenings are available at all times at the nearest Michigan Emergency Department in Iron River, Iron Mountain and Escanaba. A crisis line staffed by trained workers is at 1-800-750-0522.

For more information, go to https://www.nbhs.org/.

If you need assistance locating long-term mental health resources, talking through a problem, or exploring treatment options, call 211 to speak with someone who can help.


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