CAPPS - August, 2017

Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS)

Speaker Announces Mental Health Focus

On July 17, House Speaker Tom Leonard (R - District 93) announced a bipartisan task force, C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Access, Resources, Education, and Safety). Reps. Hank Vaupel (R- District 47) and Klint Kesto (R – District 39) co-chair the 14-member task force.

We last we reported on the July 31 C.A.R.E.S. Task Force hearing hosted at the Livingston County EMS building in Howell.

The House C.A.R.E.S Task Force is examining issues similar to those discussed in House Law and Justice Committee hearings on May 23 and 30. We anticipate legislation related to these issues to be introduced in the Fall. Visit CAPPS website ( for more details on the hearings.

CAPPS has long been concerned with the over incarceration of people with mental illness. This is an important issue, and we are pleased that the Speaker and the C.A.R.E.S Task Force are advancing this discussion.

Southwest Michigan Calls For Improved Mental Health Services

On August 17, the C.A.R.E.S. Task Force hosted a meeting at the Hope Network office in Grand Rapids. Hope Network is an organization providing services that improve the independence of vulnerable populations.

Rep. Kesto (R – District 39) opened the hearing by saying that he is seeking “insightful and cutting edge policy recommendations that makes Michigan a better place for everyone.” Rep. Durhall III (D – District 5) said he would like the system to “be proactive, rather than reactive.”

Megan Pena, director of clinical services at Hope Network, encouraged legislators to gain a greater understanding of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the use of tools to address risk and needs. Pena indicated individualized services allow for a treatment plan designed to provide the appropriate level of care.

William DeBoer, president of KPEP, a residential and non-residential community-service provider in Kalamazoo, outlined programs proven effective in helping formerly incarcerated people. KPEP partners with the MDOC on the Parole Certain Sanction Program (PCSP), which provides substance abuse treatment services. DeBoer also discussed a variety of KPEP programs offering workforce development training. He said:

There are many employers who want to hire formerly incarcerated people. Employers are desperate for employees and willing to provide on-the-job training for individuals who can pass a drug test and show up for work.

Dennis Van Kampen, president of Mel Trotter Ministries, said that 20 percent of those they served in 2016 had a mental health diagnosis. Mel Trotter Ministries is a faith-based organization offering housing, recovery, and job readiness services to vulnerable populations in the Grand Rapids area.

Van Kampen urged a collaborative approach to supporting people with mental illness and said:

There is no hope without collaboration. This problem is far too large for any one organization to impact. If we all come together, I think this is a solvable problem.

Brian Vork, executive director of the 70X7 Life Recovery, an organization providing housing, recovery, and job readiness services, indicated the recidivism rate for program participants is under five percent. He said relationship development is critical for returning citizens, and:

We are dealing with a population that has been programmed to death. What people really need is relationships. When people leave prison they are looking for care and trust from service providers and people in the community.

Retired Judge Harvey Hoffman, legislative director of the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals, discussed Michigan’s 180 treatment courts. He is the primary author of Michigan’s drug treatment court statute and co-author of the veteran’s treatment court statute.

People convicted of violent crimes are not eligible for diversion under the mental health court statute.  Under a narrow set of circumstances, people convicted of violent crimes are allowed to participate in veteran courts. Judge Hoffman described pending legislation to amend the mental health court statute to align it with the limited exceptions in the veteran court statute. This will provide increased access to mental health courts for people convicted of violent crimes.

Dr. Cara Poland, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health’s Center for Integrative Medicine and the president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, offered a series of recommendations to improve the treatment of individuals suffering from opioid addiction. She urged improved substance abuse treatment for incarcerated individuals and providing access to medication that assist people through their recovery.

Chris Beck, prosecuting attorney at the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, shared Kent County’s success in providing crisis intervention training (CIT) to a small and growing number of police officers. The training allows officers to better serve individuals experiencing mental health issues. Beck urged this training to be offered statewide through training academies.

A Request For Access, Sustainability, And Trauma Services

The August 29 C.A.R.E.S. Task Force hearing was in Auburn Hills at the Oakland Community Health Network (OCHN). OCHN professionals, Oakland County law enforcement, local leaders, and public health representatives from the private and public sector offered solutions for improved mental health services. National and local crime survivor advocates shared personal stories and urged enactment of policies that create safe communities and help crime survivors heal.

Christina Nicolas, OCHN administrator of substance abuse prevention and treatment services, outlined the importance of formal and informal supports for people in recovery while seeking true treatment needs. She said that “treatment is effective and recovery is possible.” OCHN offers follow-up services for people released from jail, especially those that are a high risk for overdosing.

Cathie Yunker, OCHN administrator of access and acute care, highlighted Medicaid challenges. Medicaid is not available during incarceration, and upon release it must be reactivated, resulting in a delay in accessing critical services. Yunker urged task force members to address this barrier to funding and treatment as sustainable funding streams are critical to the delivery of services. Many of the OCHN programs are funded through a “patchwork of sources,” making strategic planning difficult.

Megan E. Noland, director of government affairs at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the increased number of people in jail with mental health issues – approximately 35 percent of the jail population. The jail has become a “de facto” mental health facility.

Oakland County has provided crisis intervention training (CIT) to 120 officers from 19 different agencies across the county. As a result, Noland said:

We are seeing an increase in access to supportive services and diversion from jail.

Barb Hankey, manager of the Oakland County Community Corrections Division (OCCCD), discussed the importance of sharing resources. The OCCCD provides a wide array of sentencing alternatives for individuals with nonviolent convictions. Their Community Access Liaison offers a variety of supportive services for individuals with mental health issues, in collaboration with OCHN.

Elizabeth Kelly, executive director of the Hope Warming Center, also partners with the OCHN on services for homeless residents at two homeless shelters. The Warming Center works to find permanent housing opportunities and services for homeless individuals that often cycle through many systems before getting the resources they need.

Two members of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, Shelley Taub and Helaine Zack, described services for the county’s most vulnerable populations. Both discussed the importance of individualized services and the need to stabilize funding for the provision of services in the county.

Brent Wirth, chief executive officer of the Easterseals Michigan, an organization serving children and adults with disabilities and/or special needs, described the importance of private and public partnerships to deliver a full scope of services.

Julie Sysco, chief executive officer of the Havenwyck Hospital, echoed the importance of community partners to deliver quality services. Havenwyck Hospital is a licensed psychiatric and substance abuse facility providing behavioral health and substance abuse services for children, adolescents, and adults.

Seema Sadanandan, managing director of the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ), works to create new pathways for public safety that elevate the needs of crime survivors. ASJ is a national crime survivor organization that advances a balanced approach to justice.

Sadanandan stated that a large portion of Michigan’s public safety dollars are focused on corrections rather than prevention and healing services. She provided a range of recommendations including incentivizing treatment of incarcerated people, removing prohibitions that inhibit people from working or securing occupational licenses, and using validated evidence-based practices to make decisions throughout the criminal justice system.

Amy Conkright, co-founder of Still Standing Against Domestic Violence, shared her personal experience with violence in the home and how it was perpetuated in her adult life. Still Standing is a nonprofit organization serving men, women, and children affected by domestic violence through education, prevention, and awareness. Conkright advocated for solutions that focus on rehabilitating individuals, families, and communities.

Dionne Wilson, national crime survivor advocate at the ASJ, provided powerful testimony about her experience as the widow of a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty. She shared her personal journey of healing, which led to her support of new safety priorities. Wilson did not find restoration in the death sentence received by the man who killed her husband. She said:

It did not repair the harm. When I realized it didn’t fix it, I pulled back and realized there were so many more opportunities in the life of the young man that killed my husband.

She commended Rep. Kesto for “getting in front of the drivers of crime and really addressing them.” She concluded by saying:

The policies we have had over the past 20 – 30 years have not made our communities safer.

Additional personal success stories were shared by Stephanie Laird, advocate, Deb Monroe, chief executive officer of Recovery Concepts, and Stacy Burns, president of the Drug Free All Stars. All expressed the importance of the community services they received in their healing process.

If you would like to join CAPPS’ efforts, please contact Laura Sager, executive director, at or select “Join” on the CAPPS website home page ( in the upper right corner.