LANSING — State Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) said today she is eager to get to work implementing the proposals that came out of the bipartisan CARES (Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety) Task Force, which visited a number of Michigan counties over the past year to hear from professionals and community members on mental health and addiction issues. Guerra was one of seven Democrats and seven Republicans on the task force.

“We have to start making it a priority to help people and kids struggling with mental illness so that they can get assistance in a timely manner,” said Guerra. “It’s no secret that far too many people end up in our jails and prisons because there is not enough access to services that can help them before it is too late. If we improve the services we offer as a state, then our friends, neighbors and family members dealing with mental illness or addiction can focus on living productive and good lives instead of struggling and ending up in trouble.”

Among the recommendations from the task force are:

  • Increasing access to mental health services and mental health personnel
  • Providing crisis intervention training for law enforcement
  • Providing crisis intervention training for emergency medical technicians
  • Addressing the shortage of case managers and social workers
  • Encouraging providers to have more beds for mental health patients
  • Increasing judicial discretion for sentencing veterans
  • Expanding diversion programs
  • Eliminating barriers to work for mental health patients
  • Requiring the use of mental health screening in jails at intake

The task force released their report this week at a Capitol press conference. The task force reports can be read online here.