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Mental Health Dollars For MI Kids at Risk

May 4, 2009

Lansing, MI - May has been designated "Children's Mental Health Month" in Michigan. At the State Capitol this week, the message to lawmakers will be, 'Don't balance the budget on the backs of Michigan children with mental health challenges.'

Children's advocates say they'll meet with lawmakers to ask that they protect such programs as respite care from the budget ax. It gives families a much-needed break and provides the child with a trained worker to help them with their community skills, according to Jane Shank, a family advocate with the Association for Children's Mental Health.

"Kids don't vote, and so a lot of times, I think the things that really benefit them are things that are hard to get, and harder to keep."

Cutting programs like respite care are false economy, Shank insists, because they save money down the line.

"It's actually a real inexpensive sort of intervention and strategy with great results."

Shank adds children's mental health will be the focus of a Tuesday lunch meeting at the State Capitol.

"Advocates and parents, family members and youth are coming from around the state to invite their legislators down into the wing of the Capitol."

The Governor's budget proposes deep cuts in community mental health funding, including the respite care program. Shank is hoping they can restore at least $1 million to keep the program going. In 2003, the budget for respite care was $3 million.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - MI