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House task force addresses mental health reform in Auburn Hills

House task force addresses mental health reform in Auburn Hills

Bipartisan group hears testimony from 17 speakers during meeting

Members of the House C.A.R.E.S. task force continued their mission to help Michigan residents with mental health challenges today, hearing from 14 different organizations and advocates during a standing-room only meeting at the Oakland Community Health Network in Auburn Hills.

“Mental health is clearly a big issue because a lot of us – including my fellow task force members – may have personal stories of how it has affected our lives,” said Rep. Klint Kesto, a Commerce Township resident and task force co-chair. “We must come up with solutions. Today was an incredible step forward in helping us find solutions that will help everyone in Michigan who is touched by these unique challenges.”

State Rep. Hank Vaupel, co-chair of the task force, was equally impressed by the turnout and participation from Oakland County residents.

“All the speakers we had today presented such passion during their presentations,” said Vaupel, of Fowlerville. “A lot of information was shared today. We are listening and we will take steps to move Michigan forward on mental health.”

The C.A.R.E.S. Task Force, named for the Community, Access, Resources, Education and Safety elements, seeks to help support Michigan’s citizens to live happier and more independent lives. The task force had two prior public meetings in Livingston and Kent counties. Co-chairs Kesto and Vaupel were joined today by task force members Reps. Ed Canfield, of Sebawaing; Mary Whiteford, of Allegan; Robert Wittenberg, of Oak Park; Fred Durhal III, of Detroit; Abdullah Hammoud, of Dearborn; Sylvia Santana, of Detroit; and Vanessa Guerra, of Bridgeport.

Among the speakers at OCHN were Willie Brooks, OCHN executive & CEO; Bettye Arrington, OCHN board chair; Christina Nicholas, OCHN administrator of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment; Cathie Yunker, OCHN administrator of Access and Acute Care; Megan E. Nolan, director of governmental affairs with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office; Rosa Thomas, behavioral health director, Oakland Integrated Health Care (OIHN); Barb Hankey, Oakland County (OC) Circuit Courts Community Corrections; Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of Hope Warming Center; Shelley Taub and Helaine Zack, OC Board of Commissioners; Brent Wirth, CEO of Easter Seals-Michigan; Julie Szyska, CEO/managing director, Havenwyck Hospital; Seema Sadanandan, Alliance for Safety & Justice; Amy Conkright, Still Standing Against Domestic Violence; Dionne Wilson, Crime survivor advocate; Stephanie Laird, advocate; Deb Monroe, advocate; and Stacie Burns, recovering substance user.

Information gathered during task force meetings will aid in the development of legislative reforms to improve consistency, provide better support for veterans, increase attention on substance abuse treatment, allow for enhanced law enforcement training and make improvements to mental health courts.

The public is encouraged to submit suggestions on state mental health services online at www.house.mi.gov/CARES.


PHOTO INFORMATION: House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force co-chairs Klint Kesto (second from right) and Hank Vaupel (right) listen to testimony during the task force’s meeting today at Oakland Community Health Network in Auburn Hills. At left are fellow state Reps. Sylvia Santana and Vanessa Guerra.

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