EasterSeals Michigan has resources available to help community members receive mental health services.

EasterSeals Michigan has resources available to help community members receive mental health services.

Photo provided by Craig Sharum

EasterSeals offers free online survey to assess general mental health

‘When people need care, they need it immediately’

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published December 28, 2020


WEST BLOOMFIELD — The topic of mental health is receiving more attention than perhaps at any other point in history. 

The pandemic has brought the issue to the forefront, and mental health providers have been given resources to help tackle the problem.

According to a press release, community mental health providers across the state and in Oakland County have been providing residents with comprehensive behavioral health care through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics grant funding.

EasterSeals Michigan has been one of the beneficiaries of the grant funding.

In May of this year, EasterSeals was awarded a two-year grant for up to $2 million per year, which followed a previous grant from 2018.

According to Juliana Harper, who is the chief program officer for EasterSeals Michigan, the grant has a focus on “increasing access and integrated care to individuals, children and adults with serious mental illness.”

Increasing access can be a big part of getting people the help they need.

“When people need care, they need it immediately,” Harper said. “Otherwise, they’ll second-guess themselves out of calling. If you put too many barriers for them accessing, they’ll just put it off. … We’ve had referrals, but maybe they never got connected into treatment, and then you find out they were high risk, or maybe they were suicidal, and they never get connected. So the whole point is to try to do rapid engagement, screen them in and start treatment pretty quickly.”

EasterSeals Michigan CEO Brent Wirth does not want the process of accessing help to be a difficult one.

“We’re screening people into care, not screening people out,” Wirth said. “We’re doing whatever it takes to get (them) the help they need.”

Harper discussed the primary ways EasterSeals Michigan, which she said serves 15,000 people annually, can provide help for community members.

“We are predominantly a behavioral health provider,” she said. “We provide outpatient and community-based programming, (from) infant mental health all the way to senior services.”

Patients can come to EasterSeals Michigan via referrals or initiating contact themselves.

“We got the word out and let people know in the community that we were here, our doors were open, we can serve anyone that has a need, and we can’t deny services based on their insurance, their ability to pay or where they live,” Harper said.

After receiving the grant in 2018, Harper said, “we were kind of a little surprised by how many kids actually entered care in this kind of model.”

One of the biggest issues facing children also applies to some adults.

“The data is showing a couple things,” Harper said. “One, chronic stress and trauma. Individuals that arehttp://easterseals.com/Michigan presenting with trauma histories and being isolated in these times are re-enacting a lot more mental health concerns. Where they may have been resilient and able to cope before, they’re not so much right now.”

If teachers notice potential mental health issues with children, such as sadness, her suggestion is that they “not be quiet about it” and reach out to someone in the district for what steps can be taken.

As for a common issue with adults, Harper said, “We’re predominantly seeing depression with adults.”

Substance use has also been a problem for many adults.

Harper considers mental health consultation to be “essential,” and she suggested a way to get started with the process.

The EasterSeals’ website has a free survey that can be taken to help assess general mental health conditions, with a score provided.

“I encourage people to take the free, anonymous screening because I think that will give them information about where they should pivot next,” Harper said. “(They) can take it as much as they want — come back a month later and check it. Symptoms may change or feelings may change over time. … If they have a loved one or themselves that they feel like they need treatment, to get it. Don’t wait.”

The EasterSeals’ website has even more to offer for those who visit.

“There’s a whole bunch of resources listed on our website that can help point people in (a) particular direction, especially if they’re feeling suicidal,” Harper said. “Reach out to someone right away. … Whether it’s a family member (or) a friend.”

Other resources for help include the 1-800-suicide line and Common Ground in Oakland County, which Harper said “has services 24/7 for people experiencing crisis.”

As for EasterSeals Michigan, Harper said, “We’re also here as a treatment partner, and if we can’t provide the service, then we’ll help someone get where they need to be.”

Harper said there is a “wide variety of different options based on a person’s need,” with therapy offered in homes and offices.

Those who seek assistance can help more than just themselves with that decision.

“I think we still have a long way to go to break down stigma about mental health and substance use conditions,” Harper said. “They are biological conditions that can be treated. I think that the more people are aware of them, and people talk and tell their stories, and you hear about other people’s stories of recovery and support — it gives hope.”

For help and/or information, visit easterseals.com/Michigan, or call (800) 75-SEALS.