4 mental health care solutions happening in Southwest Michigan

KALAMAZOO, MI — Mental health care is having a moment.

The stigma is easing.

There’s bipartisan action to boost funding and ease access.

Recognition is increasing on the importance of mental health for both physical health and quality of life.

In the past 18 months, the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative – a consortium of 12 regional media and community outlets – has amplified that conversation, publishing 70 stories on mental-health issues affecting local residents and organizations as part of its Mental Wellness Project. Those stories have focused on “solutions journalism,” which goes beyond identifying a problem, but also to highlight potential solutions.

The 2023 SWMJC Mental Wellness Project produced packages of stories focusing on the mental health of caregivers, issues around youth mental health and mental health workforce issues.

Our final series this year is called The Science and Art of Well-being: Innovations and Best Practices in Mental Health Care.

This package features four solutions journalism stories. They are:

  • Kalamazoo’s mental health urgent care center. Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, the county’s public community mental health agency, opened the center in July and provides a 24/7 alternative to a hospital emergency department or jail for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
    • Story by: Encore Magazine
    • READ: New $5M Kalamazoo center is an urgent care – but for mental health
  • Genetic testing to improve prescribing of psychotropic drugs. One of the biggest issues in mental health treatment is the difficulty in finding the best drug and dosage for individuals needing medication, an often-frustrating process that can take months. But clinicians are increasingly embracing a new tool – genetic testing that can help identify which drugs might work best for an individual.
    • Story by: Southwest Michigan Second Wave
    • READ: Kalamazoo company uses DNA swabs to connect patients with mental health meds
  • Kalamazoo’s new BlackWellness Network. Synergy Health Center, a local provider of mental health and substance abuse services, is leading an effort to create a directory of Black health care clinicians – from therapists to primary care physicians to massage therapists – so that Black patients can find culturally competent providers.
    • Story by: MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette
    • READ: BlackWellness Network helps Black patients find clinicians
  • Local resources for LGBTQ youths. There’s a growing network of resources and services for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or non-binary. That network – including online resources – is especially important for youths who live in conservative rural communities such as Three Rivers.
    • Story by: Watershed Voice
    • READ: ‘What if I was born in the wrong body?’ LGBTQ youth find support in Kalamazoo

The SWMJC is continuing its work and is considering what issues to explore in 2024. More information can be found at swmichiganjournalism.com.

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