Lansing residents deserve local life-saving mental health care


(The writer has lived in the Lansing area for over 35 years. She worked for the state Legislature and for the Michigan Education Association.)

In spring 2016, my family was at a breaking point. Our daughter, Sarah, was in her senior year of high school and had been struggling with a severe eating disorder. Despite the efforts of several wonderful doctors here in Lansing, she wasn’t getting any better. It became clear that if something didn’t change, Sarah might not make it. We were watching our youngest child wither away, completely outside of our control.

That’s when her pediatrician recommended an intensive, partial hospitalization eating disorder treatment program. The closest option was at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. The program required Sarah to spend eight hours a day in the hospital, five days a week, with mandatory parental attendance every day. On top of the program, we spent up to three hours in the car daily commuting from East Lansing, depending on construction traffic.

This program was worth it all because it saved Sarah’s life. She’s now a happy, successful adult, and I am immensely grateful for the treatment she received. But that’s not to say it didn’t take a toll on our family. Eleven-hour days are almost impossible to manage when you already feel like you’re falling apart. Yet, without sufficient behavioral health services and resources in Lansing, this is what we ask of families like mine who are experiencing the worst crisis of their lives.

And my family was one of the lucky ones. I am acutely aware of how blessed we were to be able to take advantage of U of M’s program. My job was extremely accommodating to my schedule. We had a reliable car to drive to and from Ann Arbor every day. My husband had retired, and in addition to attending the program every day, he took care of preparing many of the special meals we needed. Our son, who had already graduated from college, did everything he could to support us.

These circumstances allowed us to invest nearly all our time in Sarah’s treatment. But what happens to families in Lansing dealing with behavioral health challenges who aren’t as fortunate? What happens to the people who can’t access these critical resources when their child is in crisis?

Sarah’s story is just one example of why it’s so crucial to have comprehensive, adolescent behavioral health services available locally here in Lansing. I saw firsthand how these services are quite literally lifesaving for someone struggling with their mental health — and how under-resourced our area is today. Local resources, like U of M Health-Sparrow’s planned behavioral health facility in Lansing, would immensely impact and help meet the profound need for these services. 

When someone in your family is experiencing a mental health crisis, access to local care makes everything just a little bit easier in an already exceptionally difficult situation. If we truly want to help friends and neighbors grappling with serious — possibly life-threatening — mental health issues, we need to bring more vital behavioral health care resources into our community.


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