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 andwilling 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 for a collaborative approach to supporting people with mental illness and said:

There is no hope without collaboration. This problem is far too large for anyone 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. Relationship development is critical for returning citizens, he said:

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.