Michigan recieves failing grade for mental health care

Michigan’s mental health care system received a failing grade this week in a national report.

Michigan received an overall “D” grade from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a drop from the “C plus” it received in 2007.

Sherri Soloman, the group’s Michigan executive director, said the state does offer some good care – that is if you have private insurance or Medicaid.

“People ineligible for Medicaid actually are not being served because our community mental health programs have lost funding,” Soloman said. “And Governor Granholm proposes, in her 2010 budget, further cuts to that program for people who are not eligible for Medicaid.”

Soloman said the number of people not being served is staggering.

“The most recent research is from 2007. There were 348,000 people with serious mental illness – adults – in Michigan,” she said, “And only 25 percent of those individuals were actually being served.”

Soloman says many mental health patients end up in jail because they cannot obtain the treatment they need.

“They end up in our jails and prisons in Michigan, where there is not care, really, for people with mental illness,” Soloman said. “It is not the place for care to be delivered.”

She called on the state to make a renewed investment in community based approaches, including mental health courts.


Community theater launches in tough economy

We hear a lot lately about businesses and organizations losing jobs and losing money… Now smack-dab in the middle of the mitten, a small community theater is launching.   They’re hoping to bring money into their cash-strapped city and, as importantly they say, bring in some culture too.  

At the landmark Doherty Hotel in downtown Clare, the “Acting Up in Mid Michigan” troupe is just getting warmed up.   (Singing)
This group is launching community theater, in the midst of a recession… in one of the poorest counties in Michigan…
It took one woman to look the economy in the eye and say ” hey let’s do a play”

“I need to be fulfilled as an artist, and Clare needs to have a soul” 
Renee’ Holbrook is the show producer. 

“We’re all a little bit nervous about this new adventure, but we’re ambitious and we’re willing to give it a shot.  And it’s not just for us, it’s for the economy of Clare, I mean if we can sell tickets to this the whole cities, the whole county will benefit from it. And maybe Clare would be known as the new Stratford someday, wouldn’t that be charming? Get people to get off the highway on their summer trips and have a reason to stop in Clare.  We can bring them live theatre.” 

Volunteers have been working for 2 – months to bring “Lafferty’s Wake” to life. The cast works on their lines and songs. (singing)  And down the hall, other volunteers are drawing up the program and laying out ads.
Holbrook says she knew this first production would have to be commercial. And that’s a  bit of a tough pill to swallow for a drama major trained in classical theater at Carnegie Melon University.

“I took advantage of the fact that I knew there was going to be a crowd here for St. Patricks, and Clare is renown for being a big St. Patty town, and I said well you know, let’s take advantage of that.  I don’t want to go this way forever.  I’d rather do Shakespeare in the park.  I want to get the teen involved, because I think kids are desperate to do something in any small town.  I think if we can get the teenagers involved then we’ll motivate the parents to realize, hey my kid’s happy, my kid’s learning to speak in public, my child has more self esteem now. Hm, my child is loving the arts.

The Acting Up troupe is backed by the Clare County Arts Council who gave them $2,000 in seed money to stage their play.

They’ve not given us any restrictions, they completely trust us, they really do, and we outnumber them, there’s 30 of us and 10 of them so…

Holbrook says so far tickets are selling well.  Advertising space is being grabbed up.  She’s hopeful the group will be able to at least break even on their play.

“Maybe we’re foolish in this economy, but you know, people will budget towards what they think is important, you know.  I’m not going to give up my hair color (laughs) to buy a ticket for any show” 

The theater group is hoping the community will respond well to this production… even giving up their hair color if necessary to support community theater in rural Michigan.

Lafferty’s Wedding opens Thursday night in Clare.  The show also runs Sunday afternoon and next Tuesday evening – on St. Patrick’s day.  You can get ticket information by calling the Doherty Hotel in downtown Clare.


Bill would allow career schools to sell student goods

Several northern Michigan lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would allow career schools to sell student-made products for nominal fees.

The bill is designed to help schools like the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Cedarville stay afloat, by allowing them to sell student goods and services.

According to Dave Lesh, the school’s executive director, tuition only covers about half the school’s costs. He said it would help if they could sell some student projects.

“Other boat schools across the country all are able to sell the boats that students build,” Lesh said. “And it’s obviously, as a non-profit, it’s a great revenue stream to help close that gap between tuition and operations.”

If approved, the bill would apply to other career schools – like massage schools – allowing them to sell student services for nominal fees.

Currently, boats from the Great Lakes Boat School are donated to other non-profits, who often auction them off to raise money for thier own organizations. Lesh says that practice would continue even if the law changes.

“That’s a part of the program, we’re not going to change that,” Lesh said. “There’s some boats that we’ll sell, that will help generate revenue obviously. But some of the smaller boats, the dinghies and the rowing boats and things like that, we’ll end up continuing to give those away.”

Similar legislation was passed by the house last year, but died in the senate.

Antrim County hatchery to recieve federal money

An Antrim County fish hatchery was a big winner in the economic recovery package passed by congress last month.

The Jordan River National Fish Hatchery is set to receive $2.5 million in economic recovery money.

According to hatchery Manager Roger Gordon says the funds have been a long time coming.

“For some of these projects, its been, I would say without exaggerating, over 40 years,” he said.

One of those projects is the construction of a Lake Trout Culture Building. It will house the raceways where young fish are raised.

Gordon said the building will protect the fish from predators and the elements.

“We lose thousands, if not tens of thousands of fish annually to fish eating birds and mammals,” he said. “When we put a building over this, these raceways, that will go away.”

Another $1.3 million dollars will improve the hatchery’s pollution abatement system.

And the hatchery will install a geothermal heating system and micro-turbines to generate electricity.

The projects must still get final approval from the federal government, which is expected by early summer.

State to limit walleye production

An often fatal fish means walleye production will once again be limited this year at state hatcheries.

Walleye production this year will be at only 20 to 30 percent of what it was a few years ago, prior to the discovery of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia.

The disease causes internal bleeding in fish, and can lead to large fish die-offs.

Gary Whelan, Fish Production Manager for the Department of Natural Resources, said the state will not use a Lower Peninsula hatchery for walleye this year. Instead, production has been moved to a hatchery near Manistique.

“We have moved all of our cool water production, at least our incubation, up to Thompson State Hatchery,” he said, “where we have walled off part of the hatchery, changed water flows, and have provided for additional disinfection measures there.”

According to Whelan, the state has also put several bio-security measures in place to stop the spread of the disease.

“Every fish that we use for the egg take will be tested for VHS. We will then also test the fry; it gives us a heads up on whether or not the virus is present,” he said. “And then we’ll be only putting those fish in non-drainable ponds, that way if the virus does come out to be positive or we get any positive samples, it allows us to destroy the production of that pond and ensure it does not get into one of our water bodies.”

Walleye will be stocked in some inland lakes, as long as they don’t have an inlet or outlet. They also won’t be stocked in the Lake Superior watershed, where the disease is not present.