Breaking Down the Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Services in Manistee and Benzie Counties

Breaking Down the Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Services in Manistee and Benzie Counties

In Manistee and Benzie counties, Centra Wellness Network works to help people of all ages facing mental illness and developmental difficulty— regardless of personal income or ability to pay.

“We’re here for people who have few or no other options,” says Ingemar Johansson, COO at Centra Wellness Network. “They can come to us. We do not turn anyone away in need of emergency service. We have 24-7 crisis services that we cover. Anyone living in our community any time in the day or night, any time of the year could call to receive crisis services.”

In November 2012, Centra Wellness Network received a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation grant to improve health care access for the uninsured. The Foundation is the arm of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that funds research and programs to improve health care in Michigan.

Serving as an integral part of their community, Centra Wellness Network is continually working to break down barriers to health care services.

“We have a vision,” Johansson says. “We would like to recreate how mental health services are provided. There should be a much more direct tie in with other primary care and medical services with mental health and substance abuse counseling, dental services, elderly care services.”

That’s where the BCBSM foundation grant fits into the picture. “This grant allowed us to get the brightest of the brightest minds to come together and help us figure this out,” Johansson says.

One result of this meeting of the minds is the Manistee Wellness Center, designed with integration and collaboration in mind. Four different service providers are housed in the same building. It’s one parking lot, one entrance, one reception desk. It means one-stop shopping and more cohesive care for patients and better communication between different providers. It’s only when you’re behind the reception desk, confidentially, that you go left for mental health services or straight for primary care or substance use.

“There’s no stigma attached to coming for mental health services because everyone goes to a primary care provider,” Johansson says. “We believe it helps people make that step to come get the mental health services that they need.”

For more on the Centra Wellness Network and their services, visit centrawellnessnetwork.com.


The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation supports research and programs to improve the health of Michigan residents. No grant money comes from the premium payments of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members. To learn more about BCBSM Foundation grant programs, visit bcbsm.com/foundation.

Photo credit: Katy Silberger

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