Sanilac County Community Mental Health helps families and children

Sanilac County Community Mental Health empowers parents so they’re able to advocate for themselves.

As a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic demonstration site, Sanilac County Community Mental Health (SCCMH) has been able to serve more residents of Sanilac County by opening services to people with mild or moderate mental health needs. These people include many families with children. Currently, SCCMH is serving 275 children from birth through age 18 who live with serious emotional disorders or developmental disabilities. The broad range of children’s services includes crisis care, evaluations, medication reviews, counseling, coping skills for families with babies to age 3, and trauma therapy. SCCMH also provides services for children with autism spectrum disorder as well as wraparound services for family preservation and independence. Many services are offered in-home.

“We’re seeing a lot more children,” says Breonna Studer, SCCMH children's department clinical supervisor. “Finding clinical staff has become an issue. Therapists must complete a six-year master’s level education. I encourage everyone to go into the field. It’s a very rewarding career.” 

MI Mental Health recently spoke with Studer about SCCMH’s family and children’s services.

Breonna Studer

Q. Can you tell us a little more about this wide range of services you offer to families?

A. We provide individual therapy while treating the family as a whole with services that benefit the whole family. We help parents feel empowered so they’re able to advocate for themselves. We provide home-based therapy and work comprehensively within the family.  

Wraparound services bring in everyone involved in the family including the Department of Human Services, foster care, Child Protective Services, and primary care. We set goals with the family and help that family achieve those goals. 

Q. What exactly are wraparound services?

A. Wraparound services are provided to families as appropriate through CMH [community mental health] wraparound facilitators. Wraparound is a team approach that works to assess a family’s needs, develop a mission statement, create goals, and work toward achieving them. Wraparound is strength based and can include any provider and appropriate resource the family wishes to have included. 

Q. You also have an infant mental health program?

A. Our infant mental health program can service families, mothers, and infants from the time the baby is in utero until the age of four. This program assists with building bonds with an infant, learning early-on parenting skills, and addressing mental health needs and concerns.

Currently, SCCMH is serving 275 children from birth through age 18.

Q. How do you work within the community to get the word out about the services you offer?

A. We host community events. A recent supportive ice skating event was open to individuals in wheelchairs and others that need assistance due to physical or mental health needs. 
We’re on the local radio station and have a Facebook page where events are posted. We’re involved in seasonal activities including the city’s summer recreational program and an event planned around Easter. 

Q. Can you describe how your community living support and respite services help families?

A. Respite services assist families by providing additional support by giving the parents or caretakers additional breaks to complete daily activities that may be difficult to complete with a child with high mental health needs. Community living support helps children learn about different events, activities, and resources in their communities. The program helps build daily living skills such as grocery shopping, money counting, cooking, peer interactions and visiting local businesses, to name a few. 

Q. What changes have you seen in the last few years in SCCMH’s work with children? 

A. We’re providing more services and helping more children with autism testing and dealing with social anxiety. It’s been a big adjustment after COVID, helping children reintegrate into society and helping them adapt to being back in school. We have therapists work with those children and employ a care manager in the children’s department. We’ve added a care manager assistant that helps the family and the child with therapy and learning coping skills. We’re in the schools to help with behavioral and mental health issues. 

Karen Gentry is an established journalist and communications specialist in the Grand Rapids area. She has written for numerous outlets including School News Network, Michigan Trails Magazine, MLive, and MiBiz. She is a graduate of Central Michigan University.

Photo of Breonna Studer by Liz Fredendall
All other photos courtesy Sanilac County Community Mental Health

The MI Mental Health series highlights the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens, and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of MichiganCenter for Health and Research TransformationLifeWaysMental Health Foundation of West MichiganNorthern Lakes CMH AuthorityOnPointSanilac County CMHSt. Clair County CMHSummit Pointe, and Washtenaw County CMH.

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