The process of finding mental health care

Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 16:58:53-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Mental health treatment and the resources that are available are topics of conversation again, after a woman killed her three girls and herself last month in Solon Township.

Court documents have shown that Aubrianne Moore, 28, had been diagnosed with unspecified schizophrenia in September 2018, saying that she was a potential threat to herself and others and that she didn't understand that she needed treatment.  On February 18, she shot and killed her three daughters and then took her own life.

Experts say that identifying and treating mental health isn't easy and each patient is unique, making the process of diagnosis and treatment complex and time consuming. They say finding professional help is the first stop, but some of the people who need it the most, don't want it.

Mental health facilities like Pine Rest offer a wide range of services, from in-patient to residential care.  But, a major concern for anyone seeking help can be insurance coverage and the cost of care.

"If you have any type of commercial insurance or a Medicare product, then you can pretty much go and access services anywhere they exist," said Rhonda Brink, the Director of Hospital Admissions at Pine Rest. "If you are uninsured, or if you have Medicaid, then your authorization really has to happen through the community health agency in your county."

In Kent County, the community health agency is Network 180.

"I think our CMHs (Community Mental Health agencies) do a great job referring people to the right level of care," says Brink. "It is an extra loop that they have to go through to figure out what services can be accessible to them. A social worker will meet with them. We'll assess and determine what level of care they really need and then we'll connect them to those agencies."

But for those who don't want the help, or can't recognize that they need the help, a family member or loved one can file a petition saying that person needs services. Or, the community health agency can file a petition with the court.

"About 35 percent of our in-patient hospitalization admissions are what we call 'involuntary admissions'," says Brink. "Typically, those happen when someone sees a person who is at risk of harming themselves or harming someone else, but they don't see it and they don't want treatment."

Michigan hospitals can hold someone for up to three days while doctors assess if they are actually safe. How long someone is held in in-patient treatment can be difficult to determine.

Doctors doing the assessments will look for warning signs that warrant longer treatment, but also have to consider the patient's rights.

"Anybody admitted involuntarily still has legal rights," says Brink. "So, if we admit them involuntarily to in-patient, they are seen by the physician and they are started in treatment. If they continue to object to that treatment, they have the right to a trial within seven days."

To help provide immediate mental health care, Pine Rest says they are opening a Psychiatric Urgent Care Center in April. It will provide immediate assessment and treatment for people experiencing psychiatric symptoms.