MiHope Portal, Connecting People to Resources

 May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for many Americans, seeking reliable and affordable mental health care has come with many barriers. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Each year millions of Americans with mental illness struggle to find mental health care. Nearly half of the 60 million adults and children living with mental health conditions in the United States go without any treatment. People who seek treatment must navigate a fragmented and costly system full of obstacles. As a result, many people cannot access mental health care when they need it most.”

Recent trends in the mental health area show that there is still a stigma surrounding mental health treatment, but also a greater need for help, specifically in the anxiety and depression areas. However, there are not enough mental health providers to cover all who need and want the help, resulting in long waitlists. 
Shirley Southworth is the Database Manager of 211 NE Michigan.
MIHopePortal.com, a confidential Mental Health Portal, was created to combat barriers and offer a self search for those in need of mental health services. “We were seeing a rising need for mental health assistance, and community members were not about to find the help for themselves. This portal is giving confidential help to someone searching for their own or a loved one's needs.” Shirley Southworth, Database Manager, 211 NE Michigan. 

The Hope Portal, is a comprehensive web based resource, connecting people to the help they need in just a few clicks. “Good mental health is an important part of a thriving community,” is noted on MIHopePortal.com.

The portal is a welcoming site connecting individuals, families, healthcare professionals, educators, business and nonprofit organizations to mental health care information, resources and providers. The online directory and referrals are trusted providers who meet a variety of mental health issues for people of all ages. The Hope Portal was created to be very user friendly, the only information to input is the zip code for individuals seeking help. Whether looking for information for yourself, a friend, or family member, the site is made to help find the information quickly, confidentially, and efficiently. The resources are separated into four categories, Child/Adolescent, Adult, Senior and Veteran. Within each category, the searcher can choose a specific need they are looking for information on. These include family counseling, individual counseling, domestic abuse, marital counseling, abuse, respite care, and much more. The self search gives you a list of multiple providers in your area, based on your search criteria. 

The idea for the mental health portal began in 2016 as a collaborative effort between community organizations such as Dow, Community Mental Health, MidMichigan Health, now MyMichigan Health1016 Recovery Network, Shelterhouse, and other community partners.They recognized that there is a need for a mental health portal, but did not want to recreate a database of information, so they reached out to Sarah Kile at 211 NEMichigan. 211 has a long reputation as being a community connector, not recreating the wheel, but working as a connector for community members to their needs.

Once approved by the 211 NE Michigan Board, the portal went live in 2017. 211 NE Michigan still owns the project today, piloting in Midland county as a vision to serve all of Michigan, which it has now expanded to. The Hope Portal is powered by the 211 Database, reviewed independently by the Hope Portal Advisory Committee, and is fully funded by Dow, “one of the most generous companies I have ever worked with,” says Kile. “Together we established a vision and operationalized what the site was for, a gateway to get people where they needed to be,” says Kile. 

The information on the portal is updated regularly according to recommendations by mental health partners and the Hope Portal Advisory committee, to ensure mental health agencies, licensed professionals, help hotlines and other support organizations are kept up to date for those seeking help. An example of these updates is the addition of a link directly to Psychology Today on the MIHopePortal homepage, giving visitors to the site additional resources. 

Self-care and wellness have been long recognized as tools for mental health care. The Hope Portal also lists their Wellness partners, information on paying for care, and has a resource section for Mental help providers who may be experiencing Compassion Fatigue and burnout. “Compassion fatigue can be a serious occupational hazard for those in any kind of helping profession, with a majority of those in the field reporting experiencing at least some degree of it in their lives. This is no surprise, as it is typically those with the most empathy who are the most at risk,” GoodTherapy.org. 

Seeking mental health care for yourself or a loved one can be intimidating and scary, but it doesn't have to be. With the 211 MIHopePortal, access to a comprehensive mental health directory has never been easier. Text, Chat, and phone calls are also available through this portal. To begin your self search, start by visiting MIHopePortal.com or mi211.org

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Read more articles by Abby Keeley-Scherzer.

Abby Keeley-Scherzer is a Mid-Michigan native, proudly raising her two daughters in Midland, with her husband, Steve. Her degrees are in business administration, cosmetology management, and sociology. Among other great qualities, Abby is an Army veteran,  pageant queen, substitute teacher, and community volunteer.