Local leaders struggle with mental health issues

Mental health has become a mainstream discussion among Traverse City leaders this week, with the Traverse Area District Library (TADL) and the Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness addressing challenges related to a lack of local day shelters and disruptive user behavior of the Library, Traverse City and Grand Traverse County Commissioners are both discussing mental health on the agenda of their meetings and Michael’s Place Bereavement Support Center is reporting a dramatic increase in the number of children grieving the death of a parent or sibling as a result of the pandemic.

After Safe Harbor raised the idea this spring of keeping the overnight emergency shelter open year-round — instead of winter-only, as is currently the case — board members of TADL sent a memo to the city and county commissioners expressing their concerns about the request. According to the memo, TADL’s Woodmere branch has become a “de facto daytime shelter” for homeless people as well as those struggling with addictions because Safe Harbor requires customers to leave during the day. The library has seen a “documented increase in behavioral policy violations” from individuals using drugs and alcohol, including “expletives, verbal threats, bodily fluids, and excessively intoxicated individuals (some who are on the floor and unable to leave the library on their own),” according to the memo Incidents continued to rise month after month, with a record 44 incidents reported in March, according to TADL.

Library board members said the result was that “TADL staff are continuously threatened and abused by customers and do not feel safe in their jobs”, “moral distress is felt by the staff” and “customers have expressed safety concerns and resorted to not using the main library and not allowing their children to use the library due to behavioral violations seen at the library. Customers who violate behavioral policies may have their library privileges suspended for a year, but many continue to sneak out to use restrooms or other amenities, according to TADL, resulting in “more incidents to be dealt with by law enforcement.” order and emergency personnel because they refuse to come out or pass out in the toilet.TADL board approved a contract of 33 $000 in December for increased security services, but said those funds should be spent on books and programming instead.

TADL board members called on the city to deny Safe Harbor expansion operations beyond April, saying the library had “repeatedly shared these concerns with Safe Harbor before, and Safe Harbor believes they take no responsibility for who their guests are once they leave.” The council also asked the city and county to create a joint task force to develop a local day shelter, which would provide a place to go during the day and access addiction treatment and other support services. . TADL leaders asked for more shelters in the area — many of which closed during the pandemic — to reopen, and asked the Traverse City Police Department to assign a community policing officer to the library and the Safe Harbor area.

Some of these proposed solutions may soon see the light of day. In Traverse City’s 2022-23 budget proposal, City Manager Marty Colburn said the city was working with Safe Harbor and Goodwill on “building a facility to meet transitional housing needs.” Colburn also recommends budgeting for a new community policing officer who will focus specifically on the Eighth Street corridor, including the Hull Park area. Additionally, the city received a three-year, $210,000 grant to fund a social worker in the TCPD, who can “help vulnerable members of our community with organized professional services that can help people recover from addictions. , their homelessness and treatment for substance and opioid treatment services,” Colburn said.

Ashley Halladay-Schmandt, director of the Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness, released a memo on Monday that also addressed TADL’s concerns, saying her organization was a “willing partner in efforts to make the library a safe place.” for its staff and customers. In addition to expressing support for the city’s efforts to add a TCPD CPO and social worker, she noted that Goodwill is working to add two street workers and the Basic Needs Coalition is working to increase day accommodation options. Halladay-Schmandt also pointed out that homeless people themselves are at increased risk of violence during the months they sleep outdoors, and said the region as a whole needs more mental health services. , including a proposed crisis centre.

“Mental health and addiction issues have a devastating effect on too many of our neighbors, family members and friends every day,” she wrote. “The behaviors that result from mental health and addiction issues are painful to see and difficult to manage. The increase in incidents at the library reflects what we are seeing in our community, in the hospital, in schools, in prison and in emergency homeless shelters…increasing housing options for the most vulnerable members vulnerable in our community is the most effective action we can take to help people get to a healthier place.

The topic of mental health appeared on the agenda of Grand Traverse County and Town of Traverse commissioners’ meetings this week. County commissioners will meet at 8am today (Wednesday) and have a “general discussion about our community mental health services” at the request of a commissioner, according to county administrator Nate Alger. Meanwhile, city commissioners on Monday approved a measure proclaiming May 2022 Youth Mental Health Awareness Month. The proclamation notes that as a result of the pandemic, children have been found to be at greater risk of experiencing or witnessing domestic violence and “face increased stress due to change, fear and uncertainty caused by illness, isolation, impending homelessness, and the loss of jobs and health care at rates never seen before.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 20% of young Americans have a diagnosed mental health disorder, with 14 being the average age at which the first signs of mental illness appear.The number of children aged 6 to 12 who have visited children’s hospitals for suicidal thoughts or acts of self-harm has more than doubled since 2016, according to the Association of Children’s Hospitals Traverse City’s proclamation states that the city is “committed to supporting the youth of our community and enhancing discussions about the importance men’s health tale of young people”.

It’s also the goal of the nonprofit grief center Michael’s Place, which is launching a special challenge on May 21 called the 21miles for 21years Virtual Challenge to raise money for bereavement support services. According to Michael’s Place, before the pandemic, an estimated one in 20 children experienced the death of a parent or sibling by the time they turned 18. Today, the number is closer to one in 13 children nationwide and one in 12 in Michigan. “Awareness of regional schools for school support groups and bereavement training has increased dramatically, with a small rural school seeking services at Michael’s Place after reporting 20 students who recently lost a parent in a single small school building,” the organization shared in a statement Monday. These losses are not only related to COVID, but also attributed to rising overdose deaths and rising rates of depression and anxiety. .

The virtual 21-mile challenge for 21-year-olds allows registrants to participate individually or as a team in a “Choose your adventure” challenge, with the aim of covering 21 miles between May 21 and June 21. A launch event will take place in Hull Park on May 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration for the challenge is $35 for adults and $21 for children and families. All proceeds from the event will directly support bereavement services at Michael’s Place.