LANSING — State Reps. Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) and Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) introduced a set of bills today to better ensure that persons in the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing communities have proper access to mental health services. These bills are in response to 2014 legislation that addressed changes recommended by the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission that unintentionally lacked input from members from the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing populations.

“The Legislature was elected to serve all Michiganders, including the roughly 3.8 percent who are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing, yet for so long this population has remained underserved,” Rep. Phelps said. “I am grateful for the hard work and partnership of Rep. Howrylak and countless other groups on this legislation to finally get our constituents the help they deserve.” 

Rep. Phelps’ bill, House Bill 4713, would establish a Division on Behavioral Health for Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Among other responsibilities, the division would be charged with advocating for people who are deaf to ensure that they receive the mental health services they require. Rep. Howrylak’s bill, HB 4714, would create a Commission on Behavioral Health for the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing within MDHHS. This 13-member commission will direct the division on matters of behavioral health for populations who are deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing.

“Deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing citizens face many challenges but having access to quality behavioral health services should not be one of them,” said Rep. Howrylak. “The reforms we are proposing are long overdue and will improve the quality of care provided to the individuals in these communities.”