Mental health, workforce development top priorities for region’s county leaders 

SOUTHFIELD—The county executives of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties got together for a discussion Friday sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber, a bit of a preview of the traditional “Big Four” meeting at the Chamber’s Mackinac Conference that also includes the Detroit mayor. 

Warren Evans of Wayne County, Dave Coulter of Oakland County, and Mark Hackel of Macomb County were in agreement on most topics—especially that mental health is the biggest problem they face on the county level. Hackel said his county is building systems to get mentally ill people into the community mental health system, not jail. 

Evans said that mental health services, education, and workforce development services are all crucial to Wayne County’s future. “If we don’t do better in these areas, all the economic development work we’re doing, our triple-A credit rating, all that starts to go south,” Evans said. 

Coulter said Oakland County has used more of its American Recovery Plan Act funding on mental health than any other area. And, he said, one good thing about the recent pandemic was a reduction in the stigma of mental health. “We need to treat mental health the same as we do physical health,” he said. “You break your arm, you go to the emergency room, and nobody says, ‘We’ll get you an appointment in two weeks.’” 

All three also admitted gaps in the region’s mass transit systems, but said they’re improving. And Hackel said Macomb County gets a bad rap for not supporting regional mass transit, since it approved funding for a system proposal that was later abandoned. 

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