Who will turn a patchwork of policies into a quilt?

Photo by Jeff Wade on Unsplash

Michigan has 83 counties, 277 city governments, 256 village governments, 1,240 township governments, 587 school districts, 12 tribal governments, not to mention quasi-government entities, and each has there own set of laws, protocols, and culture.

There are also forty-six (46) Community Mental Health organizations with many more service providers providing a comprehensive range of mental health services and supports to children, adolescents, and adults with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders in all 83 counties. I lead the MI Behavioral Health & Wellness Collaborative, a nonprofit made up of 16 other non-profit community mental health organizations — All based in Wayne County.

During crises, there is always confusion. in fact, several of these agencies provide crisis support services to help people through a difficult time. Yet, during this crisis, at this time, they have had very little guidance to put their own contingency plans in place and serve their community from either the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services or the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network.

Michigan, along with every other state, has a patchwork of governments that are forced to implement policies without funding and at times without any guidance. The focus thus far has been on prevention, containment, and education. It has also been on our physical health and now we are just starting to talk about our mental health.

However, for each government our state has, we need someone to call with questions and we need guidance. Just as the Governor is communicating with us on a regular basis, so too must every agency with every key stakeholder. According to an article in today’s New York Times, the federal government prepared last year for a pandemic and knew where it was at risk, but failed to work to mitigate those risks, including leaving it to the hodgepodge of local governments to determine how to respond to a pandemic.

In times of crisis, we need information. Even when no new information is available, we just need to know that someone is out there watching over us. We need leaders who are willing to not only make tough decisions but leaders who recognize where they are vulnerable but try to find someone else to mind the gap.

At times like this, when we are caught off guard, leadership sometimes gets lost. When lives are at stake, it is critical for leaders to either stay on top of the issue and even in front of it.

Once this crisis subsides there will be many lessons we learn. We need to be better prepared, we need to revise many laws to meet the various challenges ahead, we need to invest even more in health care and find more ways to protect our small business, just by way of example. We also need to explore our patchwork of policies and fragmented systems of government in how services are actually delivered.

The time for that conversation will come. For now, it is important to focus on getting the resources to those on the ground and in the field — to our hospitals and first responders, to our small business owners and their staff, to the medical workers and their families, our behavioral health providers, and to the many nonprofits who will soon fill the voids in our lives.

When we are ready to learn from this experience, I hope I will be able to bring the right people together, lead the conversation, and find solutions from all this chaos.

While we isolate ourselves, we are still united in kicking this virus out of our lives. We will only do it if we act together. Now #LETSGETITDONE!

Originally published at https://www.votefordancherrin.com on March 19, 2020.



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