Ed Views Recently Viewed a Video by Tom Watkins- Services & Community Partners – on YouTube

Mar 24, 2017 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

The link is below


And the presentation was about the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority which is doing some exceptional work under the leadership of Michigan’s former state mental health director and state superintendent of schools, Tom Watkins. Clearly, there are many places where mental health and social services intersect with our schools, so I interviewed Tom Watkins about his and his teams work in Detroit.

  1. Tom, once again it seems that you are leading change that produces progress for some of our society’s most vulnerable citizens. Can you tell us about the DWMHA and the work you and your team does?

Thanks for recognizing it is our team that is adding value and making a difference for our community. We have a tremendous staff that are dedicated and committed to serving people. We also have exceptional community partners– first responders, schools, courts, foundations, mayors, city councils, social service agencies, and the like that make our job that much easier.

Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority is the largest and most diverse pubic behavioral health system in Michigan we are committed to serving nearly 80,000 consumers and their families in Detroit-Wayne County. It is the expectation of our Board of Directors that we seek partnership and collaborative opportunities that empower the people and communities we serve.

We are dedicated to being consumer and community focused, data-driven and evidenced based. We promote a community that is supportive and embraces individuals with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders. We have placed a concerted effort and focus on becoming an organization that is:

a Consumer and community focused

b Data driven and

c Evidence based organization

2. Across America we are facing and Opioid epidemic. What are you doing to address in your area?

Our region continues to face challenges. DWMHA is addressing the Opioid epidemic in part by training over a thousand law enforcement and first responders by equipping them with Opioid Overdose kits which have saved over 30 lives in just the past 6 months. In early 2016, DWMHA purchased and began the distribution of 2,500 Naloxone kits to reverse opioid overdose.

Kits were distributed to first responders throughout Detroit-Wayne County during a number of training sessions arranged to properly prepare and equip them on administering the drug.  We are also educating our communities by offering free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) and Suicide Response Training courses. We have received recognition from the National Council on Behavioral Health for our efforts in training over 10,000 people have been trained in MHFA in our churches, schools, community centers and law enforcement agencies in Wayne County. Often first responders and       community members do not know how to react when they see an individual in crisis, which can lead to the person not receiving the care and treatment they need. Mental Health First Aid is a way of addressing the situation and handling it appropriately. It is our goal that it will eventually be as ubiquitous as CPR training.

3. We understand Michigan’s Lt Gov Brian Calley refers to your organization as having “gone from worst to first,” around the provision of autism services. Why is that?

We have an exceptional autism team and great community partners that go out of their way to meet the needs of children and families with autism. We work with families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders – programs, services, speech and physical therapy available to persons under the age of 21. DWMHA also offers training to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Behavior Technicians, ABA Aides, Paraprofessionals, Direct Care Staff and Respite Staff who are serving or potentially serving individuals in the Medicaid Autism Benefit.

We are lucky to have a Lt Governor and partners at the state level that understand the value of early intervention, and support to children with autism.

4. What is Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority anticipating in terms of Medicaid funding coming in with the recent state funding formula change. What is are you doing with the money to invest in your community?

The DWMHA received an additional $20 million (approximately 2.9% of the total budget) in FY16 and are expecting an additional $20 million in FY17. Our goal is to direct new resources to areas that have the greatest impact on the quality of care for the people we serve. This past year, our Board of Directors supported and approved two separate $1.00 per hour wage increases (for January 1, 2016 and October 1, 2016, including related employer paid taxes and other related costs) for the men and women working as direct care workers in group homes and in other locations providing services directly to the people who need them.  Combined those two increases in hourly wages to direct care workers cost the Authority over $32 million on annual basis. It should be noted that these direct care workers serve some of our communities’ most vulnerable citizens and had previously done so at the minimum wage or slightly above. They now earn at least $10.15 per hour compared to the current minimum wage of $8.90 per hour. In addition, the Authority retroactively funded service providers in an amount equal to the total estimated cost of a $0.75 per hour minimum wage increase that went into effect in September 2014 but that the Authority could not afford to fund until 2016.  The service providers employing workers who were earning minimum wage at that time had never received funding for the 2014 minimum wage increase despite having to pay the additional wages and related employer costs.  That retroactive increase costs approximately $13.4 million.

5.   Any idea why the DWMHA would be getting more funding while others in your state are facing cuts?

The State of Michigan changed the funding model and DWMHA was a beneficiary.  The funding model was previously based solely on historic costs.  It has changed to a model based more on expected and projected need in the community.  In the past, DWMHA did not receive adequate funding which is evidenced by the lower reported costs per unit across the entire service spectrum, especially amongst the direct care worker staff, as compared to other PIHPs and CMHSPs across the state. While we know there is need throughout our region and state we appreciate the need based approach to funding that clearly has begun to address the historical inequities in our community.

6. How will the potential repeal and placing of the Affordable Care Act affect the mental health system?

Perhaps the greatest uncertainly and fear that confronts our system of care is the debate at the federal level on the “repeal and replacing” of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare or as known in our state- as Healthy Michigan.

The State of Michigan would need to allocate an additional $70million to Wayne County alone to ensure there is no disruption in critical services to persons with severe and persistent mental illness, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and/or substance use disorders if this Le is changed — as feared.

The “Repeal and Replace” plan will remove the requirements that Medicaid include vital mental health and substance use services, and that these services receive the same parity as provided for physical health care.

Governor Snyder and the State Legislature are to be commended for expanding this program in Michigan that has seen over 660,000 people now being covered by health issuance. By any measure, Obamacare/Healthy Michigan has been a success for the vulnerable citizens we have a responsibility to serve. These individuals are at risk of losing their needed health care insurance benefits should the ACA or as it has been Dubbed “Trumpcare” bill passes.

We urge Congress to proceed with caution as they tinker with the Affordable Care Act and the “Repeal and Replace” debate now under way. We urge them to embrace the medical Hippocratic Oath: — “First do no harm.”

The repeal and replacement of the ACA, as currently proposed, will strip needed health benefits from vulnerable people – our family members, friends, and neighbors.

U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell released the following statement after voting against Republican’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the Energy and Commerce Committee.  “After more than 27 hours of straight debate in committee, it is clear that the Republican’s proposal to repeal the ACA would mean less coverage, fewer protections and higher costs for the working families and seniors we represent,” said Dingell.

“This disastrous proposal would jeopardize the care seniors depend upon, hitting them with a double whammy – a new “age tax” that will drastically increase costs they pay for health care, and rationing care under the Medicaid program. It will rip health care away from millions of Americans and end Medicaid expansion, including Healthy Michigan, which has extended coverage to nearly 700,000 people in our state. The Committee also voted down my amendment to protect seniors’ access to long-term care services and supports under Medicaid. This is simply wrong.


Governor Rick Snyder said in letters to members our state’s congressional delegation–“this legislation will adversely impact Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens and may lead to significant cost increases for seniors”,


7. The Center for Healthcare Research and Innovation, recently released a new study underscoring the cost-effectiveness of Michigan’s public behavioral health system– what are its findings?


When compared against the rate increases of commercial health insurance companies, (Health Plans) Michigan’s public mental health system saved  over $13 billion dollars ($13,992,156,714) since 1998, when this public system became the managed care organization for the state’s Medicaid mental health, intellectual/developmental disability, and substance use disorder services benefit

The new study shows how Michigan’s public Mental Health and Substance Use system delivers exceptional benefits while using sound and creative methods to keep costs significantly below national Medicaid per enrollee costs and those of commercial health insurers. These methods include:

  • very low administrative costs comprehensive and closely aligned provider networks
  • applying person-centered planning approaches to care

Addressing a range of social determinants of health through a whole-person orientation by working closely with a range of healthcare and human services in the consumer’s home community

  • weaving the services offered by the CMH and provider network with the care that families and friends provide
  • using other consumers as peer supports and advocates on behalf of the persons served
  • using an array of both traditional (psychiatric care, psychotherapy, inpatient psychiatric care) and nontraditional services (housing supports, employment supports, homebased services).

8. I understand you have produced two documentaries that were nominated for an Emmy Award to combat “stigma.” Are these available to the public?

Yes. We were very proud to partner with the Flinn Foundation to produce these exceptional documentaries: Opening Minds Ending Stigma. One targets youth and the other adults. We encourage people to feel free to use these films in any way they are helpful. You can find them on You Tube.

9. In public education, there is a clear separation between church and state. Yet, I understand you actively partner with the faith based community in Detroit to help address the behavioral healthcare  (mental health and substance abuse). Why is this?

We believe it is important to meet consumers, those using our system of care– where they are at. We have exceptional relationships with Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and hold an annual conference to share ideas and ways where we can better serve our community. The religious community also provide a tremendous amount of support for persons with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities and persons with substance abuse disabilities.

10. Tom, is there a website where people can learn more about the work you and your team do?

Yes, please check us out at: www.dwmha.com

11) Tom, you have been a longtime, thoughtful and prolific writer, are there places those interested could read your work?

Yes, check out: Domemagazine.com and Tom Watkins – CHINA US Focus


Thanks for taking the time to talk to EdViews ! We sincerely appreciate it.

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