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Spartan nurses advocate at the state capitol: Driving policy change for mental health care access


A nurse’s job isn’t done when they leave the bedside; it is often up to nurses to advocate outside of health care settings to improve policy and quality of life for their future patients.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner students Hannah Schang and Katie Anderson, recently put their advocacy to action at the state capital for policy and accessibility for mental health services.


For both projects by Schang and Anderson, the two DNP students had to identify stakeholders and how to present data to them about mental health issues and policies that could help bridge care gaps.

“My project analyzed bills that did not pass in the senate,” Anderson said. “These bills would have introduced specialty integrated plans for persons with mental illness and integrated their physical care and behavioral care as a holistic approach.”

Anderson added integrating physical care and behavioral care ensures, as a whole, the population can access mental health care services sooner. Those in primary healthcare facilities have a better outcome for overall health. Anderson looked at three other states on how they have integrated this approach.

On the other side of the coin, Schang discussed the importance of parity and why it is needed for Michigan citizens. Parity is overseen by the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This act is to ensure that insurance companies are compliant at covering mental wellness and funding such services comparable to physical care.

“These types of policies are necessary because insurance companies were applying restrictions on mental health services,” said Schang.

Currently, it is up to the states to oversee that insurance companies are compliant with mental health parity, however Michigan has yet to pass a way to oversee this law.

“Being able to educate legislative representatives and other advocates at the capitol really was eye-opening to how important this work is,” said Schang. “Without this law, we have no idea if people are being blocked from access to mental health care in Michigan. It is important that we work together so all Michiganders can have equitable care.”

While at the capitol, Anderson and Schang were presenting to state senate members and other community advocates.

“I think advocating is incredibly important to advancing patient care. Being able to present our findings to these stakeholders is the first step at making change,” said Anderson. “We are the expert at this and what we're recommending could move Michigan forward with integration of care.”

“It was eye-opening to interact with people that were there just because they've been impacted by either themselves or their loved ones that have had, you know, mental illness.” said Schang.

Associate Professor Dr. Dawn Goldstein, who leads the college’s Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program, encouraged Schang and Anderson to challenge policy and take a deep look at current bills in the senate.

“As nurse leaders in Michigan, students and faculty alike can lead the way for mental health and substance use treatment. We can advocate for parity and policy to ensure fair, equitable, and quality patient-centered care,” Goldstein said. “We can also educate others about the importance of mental health care parity in Michigan.