ALPENA — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer toured the Thunder Bay Community Health Services clinic in Hillman on Thursday and met with its staff and board of directors to learn more about the health agency’s school-based health program.
During the meeting, Whitmer heard first-hand success stories from staff about how the program has helped children in northern Michigan who suffer from physical and mental health issues.
Whitmer was urged by the health agency’s administration and board of directors to continue to support its goals and initiatives so more people can get the assistance they need.
Thunder Bay Community Health works with local schools to provide primary care and mental health services in 20 schools in six counties. The program helps to keep K-12 students healthy, and also works to protect them from mistreatment and abuse.
Whitmer said children had a rough time in the last several years due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she proposed record investment in public education, health care, and for school-based health services like those TBCHS offers because she understands the need to help families.
“The work that is being done, and at clinics like this across the state, is crucial,” Whitmer said. “We often have this tendency to say kids are resilient, and we’re not lying when we say that, but the fact of the matter is the last few years have taken a toll on everyone. Kids who were struggling before COVID-19 have had their issues exacerbated. We want to partner with and expand facilities like this one to address the needs of the community for everyone.”
Whitmer said she hopes her proposals are something the state legislature in Lansing supports. In her mind, Whitmer said, the physical and mental health and education of children should be a high priority for everyone.
“The younger we can get to people who need a little extra support, is how we are going to best make a difference,” she said. “These investments are very important and I hope anyone who feels that way will reach out to their legislator.”
Michelle Styma, TBCHS CEO, said she appreciated the governor taking the time to visit and learn more about the services offered and about future plans. She said continued support from the federal and state government can help an increasing amount of children who need assistance.
“Now, more than ever, we need to ensure all kids have access to the resources they need to be safe and successful,” Styma said in a press release. “Gov. Whitmer has continued to be an advocate to meet the needs in our schools and within our communities and we appreciate the support.”
Whitmer said making sure all people receive the mental health treatment they need is critical because it could help reduce violent crime, especially shootings. She said common sense investment and legislation that helps keep firearms out of those who shouldn’t have them, is a good place to start.
Whitmer said in the days and weeks after the Oxford shooting, it was difficult for her, the Oxford community, and the state as a whole to come to grips with the senseless loss of life.
Four people were killed in Oxford in November, and seven more were injured, when a suspect opened fire at Oxford High School.
“These tragedies are happening in places of worship, in grocery stores, they happen in schools, happen in hospitals and we are seeing the increasing gun violence wreaking havoc on people’s lives,” Whitmer said. “We have had some tough days in the last few years and those after Oxford were the hardest. I do think that whether it is secure storage, background checks, or red-flag laws, I believe there are some places we can find some common ground that will not impact hunter’s and gun owner’s rights. But we need to make sure we are keeping guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous.”