LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are recommending about 60 changes to better help the mentally ill.

A report released Tuesday caps about a year of work on changes to address the stigma of mental illness and remove barriers to people with mental health problems living independently.

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One change recommended by the commission is to eradicate the phrase “mental retardation” from Michigan laws and replace it with “development disability.”

Another recommendation is for the state to work with the private sector to provide 500 new housing units for the mentally ill in the next three years.

Headed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who was appointed by Snyder, the commission included state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor; state Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale; state Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine; state Rep. Phil Cavanagh, D-Redford Township; and James Haveman, the director of the Michigan Department of Community Health who co-chaired the group.

“These bipartisan recommendations are the first steps of a long-term plan intended to increase independence, promote self-determination and improve the quality of life for Michiganders affected by mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance use disorders,” Calley said, in a media release.

“Each of us knows someone affected by these struggles. I’m optimistic that we can do better by renewing our commitment to mental health and wellness, treating people with the respect and dignity they deserve, and improving the quality of life for some of our most vulnerable Michiganders,” he said.

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The commission also states that stigma associated with mental illness can be a primary deterrent to seeking care, affecting how people are perceived at home and in the workplace. Recommendations include eradicating the phrase “mental retardation” from Michigan law, developing a Pure Michigan marketing strategy to highlight opportunities for families living with disabilities and campaigns focusing on personal stories and community outreach.

“After spending nearly a year learning from the first-hand experiences of Michigan families and working with mental health professionals to identify ways to improve care in our communities, I am confident the recommendations my fellow commissioners and I have presented today provide us with an important set of first steps toward expanding access to mental health services and enhancing quality of life for countless citizens,” Warren said.

The commission conducted hearings in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Marquette, Detroit and Sanilac.

Cavanagh said he looks forward to a leadership role in moving the recommendations through the Legislature.

“It was a lot of work but Michigan is on the cusp of some real reforms in the way we look at and treat our mentally and physically handicapped citizens,” he said. “It was said early on that this report wasn’t just going on a shelf somewhere, but would be a plan for action.”

 [The full report is available at this link].

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