MHA Board Discusses COVID-19 Surge, Behavioral Health, Sustainability Goals

Amid a third surge of cases and hospitalizations in the state, the MHA Board of Trustees began its April 14 meeting with a review of the COVID-19 data dashboard. While Michigan’s positivity rate, emergency department visits and hospitalizations have approached levels seen last fall, there is some indication that these numbers may be leveling off. In addition, the data show that the current surge has been less lethal than previous waves due to the state’s success in vaccinating older citizens. Despite this good news, the current wave of COVID-19 infections has sickened younger adults and children more severely than earlier surges. Board members universally expressed concern about staffing fatigue as hospitals continue to care for patients while also managing staffing challenges associated with workforce illness, quarantine, and administering and operating vital community vaccine clinics. Board members urged the MHA to continue its public messaging on the importance of vaccination, as well as continued mask usage, social distancing and hand washing. The board further stressed the importance of encouraging higher vaccination rates within the healthcare community through voluntary measures, including having management lead by example and sharing best practices.

The board also engaged in a significant discussion about the ongoing challenges of funding and access for behavioral health patients, especially adolescents. The MHA estimates a need for an additional 120 inpatient pediatric beds in Michigan to treat patients for four- to12-week lengths of stay. The board endorsed proposals of the MHA Behavioral Health Council to seek grants to improve treatment in the emergency room, establish crisis stabilization units and identify incentives for recruiting child behavioral health providers.

The meeting also included a presentation from the chair of the MHA Green Healthcare Committee on its work to support healthcare efforts to advance sustainability goals related to energy, water, waste reduction, environmentally preferred purchasing, healthy sustainable food and community mobility. Finally, the board kicked off the association’s 2021 campaign for the Health Political Action Committee (PAC). More information about the campaign is available online.

Members with questions on the vaccine rollout or COVID-19 data issues should contact Ruthanne Sudderth and questions about the MHA Board of Trustees should be directed to Amy Barkholz at the MHA.