In 1963, in response to a growing acceptance and understanding of those struggling with mental health, then President Kennedy signed into law the Community Mental Health Act, greatly changing the delivery of mental health services in cities throughout the United States. Getting away from an institution-style of service delivery, the act pushed for mental illness to be treated as community-based, behavioral healthcare. This led to the establishment of comprehensive community mental health centers throughout the country, including Genesee County.
“Genesee Health System was established as a result of the Community Mental Health Act,” explains GHS CEO, Danis Russell. “We are the community’s mental health center and service provider for individuals struggling with mental illness, severe intellectual and developmental disabilities, emotionally struggling children and those battling with substance abuse.” GHS offers community-based behavioral healthcare and is funded by Medicaid, Medicare, state and federal programs, private insurance and self-pay. “We care for any individual regardless of ability to pay,” adds Russell.
We understand that physical and mental health are interconnected. We are concerned with the overall health of everybody.”
Danis Russell, CEO
Located at 420 W. 5th Ave. in Downtown Flint, GHS provides care for all of Genesee County. The nearly 500-member staff includes psychiatric professionals, nurse practitioners, social workers, counselors, case managers and support staff.
In addition to mental health support, GHS offers primary care services. “We are quite unique in that respect,” says Russell. “The majority of community mental health centers in cities throughout the U.S. do not offer primary care. We understand that physical and mental health are interconnected. We are concerned with the physical and mental health of everybody.”
Last year, GHS provided mental health support for approximately 12,000 individuals and primary care for another 5,000. “Really, since the water crisis, we have seen a tremendous uptick in need, especially in children,” states Russell. “Even today, that number continues to grow.”
In response to increasing demand, GHS, in collaboration with Children’s Health Fund, launched a mobile mental health clinic in 2017 (in the form of an equipped RV) to bring service to those in need who are without transportation.This new mobile mental health unit joined a medical mobile unit that GHS’ Genesee Community Health Center began in 2016 with a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield. The mobile health clinics are made available at schools, community events, neighborhood centers and other places where residents gather. Today, the mobile clinics have aided the fight with COVID-19 by offering mental health assistance, testing and vaccinations, in addition to continuing their other functions.
The programs at GHS also include virtual urgent care and mental health services, psychiatric and physical health screenings, professional training, consultations and crisis intervention (the GHS Crisis Hotline is available 24/7/365 at 810.257.3740).
Perhaps nothing illustrates the wide range of GHS services better than their Baby Court program. With this specialized court docket, parents and their children are offered individualized support and mental health service to help strengthen and stabilize the family. In the program, parents receive child training, coaching, education, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment.
Children receive mental health services they need to overcome the negative consequences of maltreatment. Early intervention and support can make a big difference in the life of a child and their emotional and social health is of utmost concern in the program.
Recently, and due to the growth of children’s services since the advent of the water crisis, GHS began the construction of a new building located on S. Saginaw St., between 9th and 10th Streets. “Currently, we provide services at a number of different facilities throughout Flint and Genesee County,” says Russell. “We really need more space and we really need to consolidate.” GHS has been providing children’s services from a number of buildings for years – a burden to families with children needing multiple forms of therapy. GHS board member, William Winiarski of Rowe Professional Service Company, offered the idea of a single building to house all children’s services. The C.S. Mott Foundation took interest and before Russell could blink, plans were in the works for a brand-new facility that will house all children’s program areas including the Neurological Center for Excellence, Children’s Autism Center, Outreach, and Child and Family Services. The building is funded through new market tax credits and private and public funding, including a $5.5 million grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation and a $200,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Greater Flint through the Flint Kids Fund. “It’s extremely exciting and surprising,” says Russell. “It will be a great thing for children.”
Genesee Health System is there for any person, adult or child struggling with physical or mental health issues. They are ready and willing to go above and beyond for anyone in this community. “Anyone can just walk in. You don’t need an appointment or referral,” says Russell. “We have been in the area for over 50 years and still, a lot of people don’t know about us. GHS is here to help.”
If you or anyone you know are in need of help, don’t hesitate to call the free GHS crisis hotline and virtual behavioral health urgent care at 810.257.3740.
GHS Senior Staff back (L-R): Katie Baxter, Sr. Dir. Clincial services; Jean Troop, Exec. Dir. Genesee Comm. Health Center; Dexter Clarke, Dir. of faith-based & community Engagement initiatives; Glen Chipman, CFO; Renee Keswick, Dir. of Communication & P.R.; Karry Steele, Sr. Dir. Business Operations; Jennifer McCarty, Sr. Dir. Clinical Performance & Innovation. Front (L-R): Shawn Edwards, Sr. Dir. Engagement, diversity & inclusion; Dr. Anthony Ellis, CMO; Danis Russell, CEO; Sheila Mason, Dir. of Human Resources.