Washtenaw County opens free 24/7 hotline for substance use treatment support

Washtenaw County residents struggling with substance use can now call the county's CARES hotline to receive an immediate professional screening, treatment referral, and additional services and resources.

The Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH) hotline, (734) 544-3050, added substance use treatment and support services on Jan. 1. Alongside this new function, the hotline will continue to serve its original purpose: providing similar guidance and connection to resources for those struggling with mental health issues. 

“Washtenaw County CMH already completes screenings for individuals seeking mental health services, and our phone number is widely known to the community, so adding substance use access was a good fit and we are very excited to be taking this on and providing this service to the community,” says WCCMH Program Administrator Melisa Tasker, reached via email.

Tasker says one of the main ideas behind the screening service is to streamline an otherwise-complicated process and allow residents to access treatment faster. 

“Before, individuals looking for treatment would have to call Dawn Farm or Home of New Vision and schedule an appointment to come in for that level of care assessment,” she says. “Completing the screening over the phone will reduce the wait time to start treatment.”

Though the line is open 24/7 for those in crisis, Tasker says complete screenings are currently only available during business hours, though WCCMH is hoping to provide weekend and after-hours screenings soon.

The idea for a substance use hotline was born out of a pre-pandemic assembly held by the Washtenaw Health Initiative. Multiple stakeholders came together to identify problems in accessing substance use disorder treatment and strategies to improve them.

“One of the findings was a need to create an easier way to access substance abuse treatment that involved more choice and quicker response," Tasker says.

The initiative’s additional recommendations included a single point of access for residents and a universal screening tool – both of which are provided by the hotline. The hotline also provides guidance for those looking to help loved ones. 

Tasker adds that WCCMH is currently seeking two master's degree-level clinicians with substance use treatment experience to join its team.

To reach the CARES hotline, call (734) 544-3050.

Sabine Bickford Brown is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at sabinebickfordbrown@gmail.com.

Photo by Doug Coombe.