West Michigan Business: Mental Health Allies

West Michigan Business: Mental Health Allies

It’s no secret that we have seen a surge of mental health challenges resulting from the disruption of the COVID 19 pandemic. Depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders are on the rise—especially among our kids. The team at Pine Rest and our community-based board of directors are intensely focused on building capacity to improve mental healthcare access to our West Michigan friends and neighbors. But we rely on allies who share our goals.

You, as a member of the business community of West Michigan, are one of the most important allies in the challenge to help heal our community from the COVID 19 triggered mental health pandemic. Let me explain.

I have a number of friends who are business owners in the Greater Grand Rapids area. By leading and growing successful businesses, my friends create the conditions that make an enormous contribution to the health, and mental health, of their employees and our community.

Emotional wellness is deeply tied to food security, and adequate housing, which is not possible without steady jobs. A work environment where people can find friendship in colleagues gives us all joy and fulfillment and support when life gets really difficult. And the healthcare benefits that my business owner friends offer ensure that their team members have access to the great healthcare resources in West Michigan. Study after study shows that our employees’ physical wellness is directly linked to their emotional wellness.

A thriving West Michigan business community that creates great places to work lays the foundation for the emotional wellness for everyone who calls West Michigan home.

For our part, we in the healthcare community have an almost sacred responsibility to steward the hard-earned healthcare premium dollars you pay expecting outstanding care for your employees. At the end of the day, I need to be able look my business owner friends in the eye and say we are doing everything we can to help their employees thrive. It’s personal for me.

I need to be able to say that we are helping to prevent mental health crisis from happening to your employees by providing rapid access to care. We at Pine Rest need to do everything we can to help your employees’ kids flourish, thus helping your team stay happy and productive at work.When a mental health crisis does arise in one of your employees or their family members, we need to provide the kind of world class behavioral healthcare that we would want for our own family and friends. Because, in fact, every day we are caring for our neighbors, friends, and family members.

And if we, as non-profit healthcare providers, find that our revenue exceeds our expenses we have an obligation to reinvest those dollars—ultimately the premium dollars you earned and entrusted to us—back into our team and the Michigan economy. We are accountable to the people of West Michigan.

In turn, you as a business leader have an opportunity right now to reevaluate your healthcare benefit plan to make sure it promotes mental health wellness.

Does your plan help encourage your staff to seek care when their mental health begins to deteriorate, or does it incentivize then to wait to seek care until after a crisis has arisen when care is more costly and they find it necessary to miss more work?

Are your staff aware of, and do they know how to access, their mental health benefits?

Do you make it convenient for them to slip out for a 45-minute telehealth visit so they can return to work a little healthier?

Studies have shown that investing in behavioral health not only saves healthcare dollars but promotes a more productive workforce. One of the best ways to manage the costs of healthcare is to invest just 1% more in addition to the overall healthcare “pie” into behavioral health.

If we are to thrive and prosper as a community in the richest sense—economically, physically, emotionally, socially—creating the conditions for joy and fulfillment—we need each other. We have the same goals. Let’s continue to find ways to come together as a community to help our community flourish.


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