By Kimberly Snodgrass
From reentry support staff to peer support specialists, Washtenaw County’s Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation millage has funded community-based positions since 2019. These highly specialized positions allow millage-funded staff to meet people where they are and get ahead of emerging community needs .
In early 2022, the Millage Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of 13 members of the Washtenaw County Community Mental Health Board, voted to approve three new county positions: a wraparound mental health professional position, a residential service coordinator position at the Ypsilanti Housing Commission, and two at Michigan Ability Partners’ (MAP) Permanent Supportive Housing program.
Wraparound Mental Health Professional Position
Wraparound services—care coordination for youth with highly individualized and complex needs—are already available at WCCMH. However, with millage funding, one additional position will be added to the team.
This position will focus specifically on youth juvenile justice involvement. Broadly, the new hire will serve youth aged 12 to 18 years who have complex needs and have experienced prolonged adversity, including caregiver substance abuse or mental illness. With special attention given to preventing local youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, millage leaders hope the new staff will help interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by providing services before youth are court-involved and reduce the number of youth contained in the detention center and out-of-home placement.
Additionally, the staff will provide treatment for those who already have system involvement—to minimize trauma caused by involvement in the criminal legal system.
Residential Service Coordinator Position
In 2011, a grant from the Kresge Foundation funded a new Eastern Michigan University program for families in the Ypsilanti Housing Commission. The new Family Empowerment Program (FEP) was designed to provide a range of support services—from health to education to care navigation—for people and families in the Ypsilanti Housing Commission (YHC).
While the program was originally only operating out of the YHC Hamilton Crossing location, it is now available to residents at all five YHC locations.
Millage funding will be used to fund a Mental Health Resident Service Coordinator for the Family Empowerment Program at New Parkridge—a Ypsilanti Housing Commission location situated next to the Parkridge Community Center. New Parkridge is a permanent supportive housing (PSH) facility for individuals. To be eligible, residents have to be selected from a list of individuals on the Housing Access for Washtenaw County’s list of those who are chronically homeless.
Christa Hughbank has been working for the Ypsilanti Housing Commission for two years, but now her position will be funded through the millage.
“We’re working hard to secure donations and external funding opportunities to help us run the program,” Hughbanks states. Thanks to millage funding, one attempt to secure external funding was successful.
An experienced social worker, Hughbanks has worked with a variety of populations across the county—from women in the Huron Valley Prison to children with autism. However, she was extremely excited when this position became available.
“My heart is in mental health care—because it’s not talked about enough,” says Hughbanks.
As part of her role, Hughbanks provides on-site support and case management to the 86 residents of New Parkridge—a vulnerable and high-risk population who often have dual diagnoses.
Hughbanks says she “creates a plan with residents that need mental health care, so they can get connected to resources, reestablished into care, or whatever it is that they need.”
“I also go out to the community and bring people in so that staff and residents are able to access resources,” Hughbanks continues. For example, Hughbanks said she recently had NAMI Washtenaw County come to New Parkridge and facilitate a program about breaking down stigma against mental illnesses—which can be a large deterrent for New Parkridge residents seeking care.
Hughbanks' position will be funded by millage dollars for three years.
Michigan Ability Partners (MAP) Position
For Michigan Ability Partners—a 501(c)3 that works with veterans and people who have disabilities in support of their self-directed transformation to self-sufficiency—the millage awarded a three-year contract to fund two additional case managers and 14 additional housing vouchers for their Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) program.
PSH has existed for nearly 30 years and consists of seven properties across the county, totaling 44 units. Twelve units are designated for homeless veterans.
The program not only provides permanent housing to low-income and chronically houseless individuals, but also connects them with medical and social care such as food stamps, income assistance, health insurance, behavioral and physical health care, legal services, and more.
Historically, the PSH program has been trying to do more with fewer dollars. Staff at Michigan Ability Partners knew that millage funding could help expand an already extremely successful program.
“We feel really fortunate because we're not creating anything new,” says Jan Little, Chief Executive Officer. “This is a program that already exists and is successful. The people that are in it, maintain their housing and also increase income, and overall have more stability in their life. We feel we’re really ready to expand it.”
Today, the program has a 95% success rate for maintaining housing.
The new hires will both be able to help the recipients of the 14 newly funded vouchers, and also help existing residents with care management and support.
For more information about the millage advisory committee or newly millage-funded initiatives, see historic meeting notes here.