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New Michigan Mediation Mental Health Program a Nationwide Success Model

Resolution through Mediation for Community Mental Health.

Please consider joining us to hear more about this and many other mental health resources at the Mediation and Mental Health Conference in September.

Perhaps the most important aspect of mediation, no matter where participating parties are located in the country, is that it is a safe place to share concerns to resolve a conflict. Mediation is an impartial process where all parties have an equal voice, and most importantly, confidentiality.

The State of Michigan’s mental health mediation program was developed by the Oakland Mediation Center in Oakland County, northwest of Detroit, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Michigan Community Mediation Association. Known as Michigan Behavioral Health Mediation Services (MBHMS,) it ensures that Community Mental Health clients statewide have access to a neutral, independent mediation professional to resolve matters related to their service providers.

MBHMS connects clients with their local Community Dispute Resolution Program mediation center – one of 17 in the state – that can resolve a dispute at no cost to the client. As an example, the Oakland Mediation Center is one of those 17 CDRP centers and it offers other services as well, like restorative justice processes, trainings and small-group facilitation, along with legal services.

The beginnings of MBHMS go back to 2004, when a coalition of entities and people came together to propose the program. That included the state government, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Community Dispute Resolution Program, among others.

There was an opportunity to give clients using Community Mental Health services a voice, and thus place them in increased control of discussions regarding their services. Often, many clients have felt they didn’t have a voice or input into those decisions, nor an understanding in all situations. Such a mediation program would reverse that and make the process more desirable.

Legislation for a new mediation program was written and language was worked on over the course of several years. In February 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services awarded the Oakland Mediation Center a grant to develop and implement what has become MBHMS.

The program has become an example of mediation best practices. Cases are typically complex, involving multiple parties.  MBHMS is now renowned for behavioral health mediation – relationship, trust building and affording to establish and address the concerns of all parties. Another major benefit: the MBHMS process is much quicker than the traditional court system, with most cases settled in less than 30 days.

What are the implications of MBHMS for other states? The main suggestion is getting as much input as possible on the front end of the legislatory steps to ensure an equitable program that provides an equal voice for those who receive community mental health services and those who provide those services. Only then can the program and its participants experience success.

__ Please consider joining us to hear more about this and many other mental health resources at the Mediation and Mental Health Conference in September:


Charity Burke

Charity Burke is the Executive Director of Oakland Mediation Center. In her 22 years of multi-state experience in the field of mediation, Charity has mediated hundreds of cases including personal injury, special education, pre and post judgment divorce, adult/child guardianship, EEOC, civil rights, general civil matters, landlord/tenant, and employment. She’s… MORE

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