Michigan metropolis gives Wichita a street map for offering seamless psychological well being care

Michigan metropolis gives Wichita a street map for offering seamless psychological well being care

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The 911 name got here from a restaurant.

A buyer was yelling and throwing issues, the caller mentioned. Inexplicably, the person had set his hair on fireplace.

Sgt. John Wittkowski, who heads the Grand Rapids Police Division’s psychological well being disaster response group, headed to the scene.

By the point he arrived, the person had fled. Wittkowski caught up with him three blocks away and started teasing out the person’s story.

His identify was Devon. He was 29 years previous and from out of city. He talked about points with schizophrenia, substance abuse and “he had some complicated trauma as effectively,” Wittkowski mentioned. “He was clearly distraught.”

Historically, police would have had two choices on what to do subsequent: Take Devon to jail, based mostly on the damaging outburst within the restaurant, or go to the closest hospital emergency division to deal with the obvious psychological breakdown.

As a substitute, Wittkowski took Devon to a county-run disaster entry middle in downtown Grand Rapids. There, Devon was in a position to see a clinician and get plugged into the system to assist folks with critical psychological well being points.

It was a small victory in a significant effort to basically reform behavioral well being companies in metro Grand Rapids. It’s a mannequin that Wichita and Sedgwick County may search to study from as they work to create a extra coordinated strategy to addressing psychological well being, substance abuse and homelessness. Such an strategy requires collaboration throughout a swath of presidency companies and nonprofits.

Grand Rapids seems to be making a extra seamless system although it lacks a extra centralized single location for social companies that cities corresponding to San Antonio have change into extensively regarded for. Officers in Wichita and Sedgwick County have been contemplating constructing the same hub right here.

For the previous 5 years, leaders in metro Grand Rapids have been brainstorming about the way to enhance companies for people experiencing a mental-health disaster. These talks – involving native hospitals, nonprofits that present behavioral well being companies, regulation enforcement, metropolis and county officers and even insurers – have led to new initiatives and expansions of present applications.

Grand Rapids now has a brand new psychiatric pressing care middle. A cellular disaster group can go to a person’s dwelling. Social employees are paired with police to assist reply to 911 calls. A 24/7 behavioral well being disaster middle, which can serve as a substitute emergency division for psychiatric sufferers, is anticipated to open in November 2023.

The talks even have led to a broader mission: Making a extra seamless, sturdy system for folks with behavioral well being points.

The efforts are a piece in progress. But it surely’s made sufficient impression that different communities are Grand Rapids as a possible mannequin.

Members outline the Grand Rapids mannequin as a collaboration of private and non-private entities to create a “continuum of care” in behavioral well being companies. And for the homeless inhabitants specifically, these companies take a holistic strategy, addressing fundamental wants corresponding to shelter, meals and employment.

It’s all about figuring out gaps within the system and determining how greatest to fill them.

“Proper now, persons are really much less nervous about who will get credit score and who will get to run issues, and extra about who’s acquired the sources to get it performed, and get it performed faster, and saying, OK, everyone get behind that. That’s the mannequin,” mentioned Bob Nykamp, chief working officer of Pine Hire Christian Psychological Well being Providers, based mostly in suburban Grand Rapids.

At current, Grand Rapids has two groups of social employees and police responding to 911 calls, offering protection six days every week. They triage calls as they arrive in, assigning prime priorities to probably the most critical conditions, corresponding to suicide makes an attempt. Throughout their first seven months, the groups responded to 837 calls, reporting 192 emergency division diversions, 281 EMS diversions and 65 jail diversions.

Three groups of social employees and police and fireplace personnel, working six days every week, additionally cut up their time answering calls associated to homelessness and fascinating in outreach. For 2021 and 2022, the groups reported a complete of two,443 engagements, with 130 jail diversions, 78 emergency room diversions, 84 psychological well being referrals and 62 substance abuse calls.

Wichita already has a few of the identical applications as Grand Rapids, corresponding to pairing police with mental-health clinicians to reply to 911 calls or attain out to homeless people in want of behavioral well being companies

The ICT-1 unit that responds to psychological well being emergencies operated 4 days every week in 2022, with greater than 500 area responses. However expanded companies are being rolled out following investigations into the dying of teenager Cedric Lofton, who was fatally restrained by county corrections workers in 2021.

A cellular psychological well being group can be accessible to reply and supply on-scene remedy for folks in disaster between 8 a.m. and three a.m., The Wichita Eagle reported final yr. A social employee is being embedded within the county’s 911 middle to display screen calls and direct emergency responses to reviews of individuals combating psychological sickness. 4 groups of psychological well being employees may be dispatched with or with out regulation enforcement.

Town will even pay to rent an extra clinician and two built-in care specialists, making certain a cellular psychological well being response group can be on name 17 hours a day, supplementing ICT-1 and offering staffing from 8 a.m. to six p.m. Monday by way of Thursday.

The area additionally has shaped the Psychological Well being and Substance Abuse Coalition, an effort two years youthful than the Grand Rapids process drive.

In comparison with Grand Rapids, the Wichita coalition continues to be to start with phases. The latter’s largest successes thus far contain people who’re heavy customers of varied social companies. One is a pilot undertaking to enhance their entry to public transit. The opposite is creation of a database to trace their use of varied social service applications. However the transit undertaking solely includes 15 people for much, because the coalition seeks funding to broaden it, and the database has but to formally launch.

The Wichita coalition’s most formidable proposal is making a social companies hub, most certainly downtown. However these plans are creating and have but to come back to fruition.

Daybreak Shepler, government director of the Wichita coalition, mentioned it’s helpful to take a look at communities in regards to the dimension of Wichita who are also working to enhance their behavioral well being networks.

“We use different states and cities as examples to assist information us to the best match for our group and the way to service our group members,” Shepler mentioned.


In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a river runs by way of the center of downtown, very similar to it does in Wichita. Actually, the 2 communities share plenty of tough parallels when it comes to inhabitants and demographics. One differentiator is that Michigan has expanded its Medicaid program, which has made it simpler for companies there to fund behavioral well being companies.

A booming area

Regardless of standing almost 900 miles aside in very totally different states, Grand Rapids and Wichita have quite a lot of issues in widespread and a few noteworthy variations.

Grand Rapids, the seat of Kent County, is Michigan’s second-largest metropolis, 160 miles and a world away from rough-and-tumble Detroit.

Situated on the west aspect of the state, metro Grand Rapids continues to be outlined by Dutch immigrants who began arriving within the mid-1800s, conservative Calvinists centered on church, household and a robust work ethic. These roots clarify why Grand Rapids has lengthy been the middle of the Michigan Republican Celebration.

However towards that backdrop, Grand Rapids is altering.

Town has shed its stodgy status and now has a downtown recognized for its craft breweries and vibrant arts scene. That downtown, together with the world’s sturdy economic system and proximity to Lake Michigan, has made it Michigan’s fastest-growing metro space, attracting 20-somethings looking for a hip city atmosphere and college-educated professionals wanting a spot to boost a household.

The demographics of Kent and Sedgwick counties are comparable. Kent County has about 660,000 residents; Sedgwick, 524,000, in line with the 2020 Census. Kent County has slightly extra non-Hispanic Whites (73% of the inhabitants, in comparison with 67% in Sedgwick); is a bit more prosperous (median family earnings of $70,000 vs. $61,000); a decrease poverty price (10% vs. 13%) and has extra school graduates (38% of adults vs. 31%).

Kent County’s rising prosperity has its downsides, notably for low-income residents.

The median month-to-month hire is now $1,417 in Grand Rapids, with nearly no leases beneath $700 a month, in line with RentCare, an internet actual property web site.

Grand Rapids has the most popular rental market within the Midwest, in line with July 2022 research by RentCafe, with a 97% occupancy price and 18 candidates for each rental that opens up.

By comparability, the median hire within the Wichita market is $811, in line with RentCafe.

Along with housing prices, there’s one other vital distinction between Grand Rapids and Wichita: In contrast to Kansas, Michigan expanded its Medicaid program beneath the Inexpensive Care Act. For Grand Rapids, that largely reduces the problems round funding behavioral well being companies for the uninsured, since Michigan’s low-income adults are Medicaid eligible, in line with Nykamp and different well being specialists.

“I’d say the dearth of Medicaid funding is one in all our largest gaps,” Shepler mentioned in regards to the Wichita space. She added that it’s notably problematic for companies working with the homeless inhabitants, most of whom are uninsured, leaving companies scrambling to search out methods to fund behavioral well being companies.

“It’s a monetary hardship on these companies, and the county can’t pay for all of it and the town can’t pay for all of it, so we’re making an attempt to the easiest way to adapt and modify for that if the Medicaid growth doesn’t occur” in Kansas, she mentioned.


In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a river runs by way of the center of downtown, very similar to it does in Wichita. Actually, the 2 communities share plenty of tough parallels when it comes to inhabitants and demographics. One differentiator is that Michigan has expanded its Medicaid program, which has made it simpler for companies there to fund behavioral well being companies.

Delivery of a disaster

Lengthy earlier than Grand Rapids confronted an inexpensive housing disaster, it was grappling with fallout from the deinstitutionalization motion.

As Michigan started phasing out its state psychiatric hospitals within the Nineteen Eighties and 90s, the state created group psychological well being authorities to fund and coordinate companies for Medicaid and uninsured residents. The Kent County Neighborhood Psychological Well being authority known as Community 180.

However folks with extreme and chronic psychological sickness usually are not at all times in a position to observe an outpatient remedy plan. That’s contributed to rising homelessness; the chance folks with psychological sickness will find yourself incarcerated, and strain on hospital emergency departments when these in a mental-health disaster have nowhere else to go.

By 2017, 10% of emergency division visits to Grand Rapids’ downtown hospitals concerned a behavioral well being disaster, and 20% of inmates within the Kent County Jail have been prescribed psychotropic medication.

One other subject: Community 180 was spending increasingly more of its finances on inpatient care for his or her clientele, consuming into cash accessible for outpatient companies.

In 2017, Grand Rapids space leaders shaped a process drive to think about these points. They agreed faster entry to remedy and more practical outpatient interventions would profit sufferers, ease the burden on jails and emergency departments and cut back the necessity for expensive psychiatric hospitalizations.

The duty drive additionally agreed nobody program would remedy the problem; nobody company may remedy it alone, and folks in disaster should even have entry to longer-term remedy.

It’s all about collaboration, with Community 180 taking the lead.

Among the many new initiatives lately: Pairing social employees with police to reply 911 calls; pairing social employees with police and fireplace officers to go to homeless encampments; opening an pressing care; making a separate area for psychiatric sufferers at a downtown hospital emergency division; opening a peer respite middle, wherein these with behavioral well being problems can get a break from household or housemates for a couple of days.

There’s additionally been expansions of the cellular disaster groups, native substance abuse remedy applications, outreach companies for homeless people, and a day program that’s an alternative choice to inpatient remedy.

The coalition’s two largest initiatives are nonetheless within the works.

The primary is a 24/7 behavioral well being disaster middle that can primarily function a regional psychiatric emergency division for adults.

The middle can be positioned at Trinity Well being St. Mary’s downtown hospital, and it’s anticipated to open in November 2023.

“We can provide them fast entry to psychiatric medicines, peer assist companies, restoration coaches, remedy, interventions, nursing, labs, all of these varieties of issues inside this setting,” mentioned Kristen Spykerman, chief scientific officer for Community 180.

The expectation is the middle ought to considerably cut back admissions to inpatient psychiatric hospitals – maybe by as a lot as 60% to 70%, based mostly on nationwide information for comparable facilities.

That would lead to big financial savings for Community 180, liberating up cash for outpatient applications. Between 2016 and 2020, a median of two,420 Kent County residents a yr have been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, at a median price of $8,490 per keep, in line with a Community 180 report. By comparability, the common invoice for an eight- to 24-hour keep within the Disaster Stabilization Middle is anticipated to be $1,400.

The opposite large undertaking within the works: A $62 million pediatric behavioral well being middle, tentatively scheduled to open in spring 2025 on the Pine Relaxation campus in suburban Grand Rapids.

The middle will embrace outpatient and inpatient companies, together with a pediatric psychiatric hospital, consuming dysfunction program and specialty clinics for melancholy and autistic spectrum problems.


As in Wichita, downtown, notably the Heartside neighborhood, is a visual point of interest for discussions about homelessness and psychological well being.

Classes discovered

The most important lesson discovered from Grand Rapids is the significance of getting prime leaders of stakeholders to the desk, mentioned Dr. Subodh Jain, a Corewell Well being psychiatrist who has labored with the duty drive.

“Second, the advocacy on the state and federal degree must be aggressive to get all of the sources wanted,” Jain mentioned.

Suppliers additionally have to put apart turf wars, which shouldn’t be a difficulty because the demand for behavioral well being companies is so big, Jain mentioned. “Market share isn’t an issue.

“The Grand Rapids mannequin is a wonderful mannequin,” he added. “It really works.”

Nonetheless, coordinating all these initiatives hasn’t been straightforward, acknowledged Kate Berens, Grand Rapids deputy metropolis supervisor. It means figuring out all the important thing suppliers and “creating some formality round how you’re employed collectively and the way you share data and what you do to ensure your system is evolving collectively as an alternative of 1 group at a time.”

The collaboration has had its share of different challenges.

The most important frustration mentioned Nykamp of Pine Relaxation: There are nonetheless many people in want of psychological well being companies who aren’t accessing them. And if all these people did search assist, “the system can be overwhelmed,” he mentioned.

The apparent resolution is to broaden capability. However that’s simpler mentioned than performed.

A serious barrier is a scarcity of employees, a difficulty all through the behavioral-health system – from psychiatrists to therapists to nurses to psychiatric aides. Working with psychiatric sufferers may be tough, and particularly in a aggressive job market, employees produce other choices that may pay extra for lots much less stress.

“One of many classes discovered – which everyone nationally is recognizing and particularly in our a part of the Nice Lakes space – is workforce scarcity,” Jain mentioned. “We don’t appeal to workforce. Now we have to develop our personal as a result of we don’t essentially have a ton of people that wish to work in Grand Rapids.”

That’s pressured the companions within the Grand Rapids collaborative to get artistic, Nykamp mentioned, together with partnering with native schools for internship applications and funding scholarships to recruit future employees. Pine Rise additionally has began a psychiatric residency program to lure docs to Grand Rapids for coaching, in hopes they’ll keep long run.

One other subject is funding.

Grand Rapids officers discovered it necessary to have Medicaid gatekeepers and personal insurers on the desk to ensure they’re keen to pay for behavioral well being pressing care go to or having a affected person go to a disaster stabilization unit vs. an emergency division, Nykamp mentioned.

One other lesson discovered has been the significance of communication, not simply inside the collaboration companions but additionally for most people – notably in regard to applications for homeless residents.

Final yr, the Grand Rapids Space Chamber of Commerce and downtown enterprise homeowners confronted the Grand Rapids Metropolis Fee about disturbances involving homeless individuals, a rising subject because the pandemic ebbed and folks started returning downtown. The chamber proposed new ordinances that some perceived as criminalizing homelessness.

“I feel there’s problem speaking in regards to the unhoused group, and the fears, issues, assumptions that folks on the surface make about what’s taking place on the streets,” Berens mentioned.

Town’s response has been two-pronged: First, declaring police are “imposing ordinances for misdemeanor, violent and different unlawful conduct,” Berens mentioned, whereas additionally stressing the necessity to “work on system failures in order that we now have fewer and fewer folks in disaster, and in that disaster second, violating ordinances.”

“So we should be clear about how we deliver prison enforcement to bear after which what we’re additionally doing to assist the system serve folks higher, particularly folks with psychological well being and drug dependancy crises,” she mentioned.

One more frustration: Whilst metro Grand Rapids improves its behavioral well being system, it’s not clear that hospital emergency departments have seen a drop in behavioral-health circumstances or that the variety of homeless folks has declined.

Certainly, within the wake of the pandemic exacerbated, increasingly more persons are reporting mental-health issues and people points appear to be extra extreme. That’s compounded by inflation and a housing disaster that exacerbates the situations that gas homelessness.

Whereas extra persons are getting assist, Berens mentioned, there are consistently “new individuals who have fallen by way of the cracks.”

“I feel the info reveals we’re frequently bettering,” she added. “But it surely additionally reveals we nonetheless have extra work to do, notably in regard to homelessness. Anybody within the homelessness response area will let you know, the No. 1 resolution is to have extra inexpensive housing” – and that’s an enormous problem in a group rising sooner than the variety of new housing models coming on-line.

All that mentioned, “the duty drive has been very profitable,” mentioned Spykerman, of Community 180. “It’s helped transfer initiatives ahead” and has created a way more collaborative atmosphere between the assorted entities.

“The opposite factor is that collaboration simply results in, I feel, a greater product,” with every company sharing their insights and experience, Spykerman added. “So once we come collectively and share these concepts, it results in a greater outcome for the people we’re going to be serving.”

This story was produced by the Wichita Journalism Collaborative in partnership with the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative.

Concerning the Reporter

Julie Mack is a longtime journalist who has spent greater than 30 years working for MLive Media Group, which publishes eight newspapers in Michigan, together with the Grand Rapids Press. She can be a part of the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative, which has been reporting on psychological well being points.

Concerning the Photographer

Tyler Herbstreith is a neighborhood photographer, musician and part-time bartender. After touring and dealing in all 48 contiguous states, he finds himself again dwelling in Grand Rapids. His pictures usually focuses on, however isn’t restricted to, the various native stay music scene and capturing delectable meals and beverage photos.

Concerning the Editors

The story was edited by Chris Inexperienced, government of The Journal, printed by the Kansas Management Middle, and Rachel Schrag Sommerfeld, information director at KSN TV. Kylie Cameron, a basic task reporter at KMUW, contributed content-related suggestions to the reporter.