Senate approves MacDonald incentive plan to boost mental health care service

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Michael D. MacDonald’s bill to help attract mental health care providers to underserved areas.

“As we have seen all too often during this coronavirus pandemic, there is a huge need for mental health services in state, but people in many communities don’t have access to a trained mental health professional nearby to provide this important care,” said MacDonald, R-Macomb Township. “The goal of this legislation is to help bring more mental health professionals to underserved areas and ensure everyone in our state can get the mental health care they need.”

The Michigan Essential Health Provider Repayment program offers loan payments of up to $40,000 per year to designated health care professionals who enter into a written contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide services in a health resource shortage area.

Senate Bill 246, sponsored by Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, would expand the program to cover mental health care professionals and increase the lifetime loan repayment maximum to $300,000 payable over a period of 10 years or more.

MacDonald’s bill, SB 435, would define a designated mental health professional for the program as someone qualified in the area of mental illness or developmental disabilities and is a nurse, psychologist, licensed master’s social worker, licensed professional counselor, or a marriage and family therapist.

SB 435 would also add “Behavioral Sciences” and “Geriatrics” to the list of designated physician specialty areas.

The bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.