ALPENA – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer visited Hillman’s Thunder Bay Community Health Services Clinic Thursday and met with her staff and board of directors to learn more about the health agency’s school health program.
During the meeting, Whitmer heard firsthand success stories from staff about how the program has helped children in Northern Michigan suffering from physical and mental health problems.
Whitmer was urged by the health agency’s administration and board of directors to continue supporting its goals and initiatives so that more people can get the care 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 keep K-12 students healthy and also works to protect them from mistreatment and abuse.
Whitmer said the children have had a tough time in recent years due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she has proposed record investments in public education, health care and school health services such as those offered by TBCHS because she understands the need to help families.
“The work that is being done, and in clinics like this one across the state, is crucial,” Whitmer said. “We often have this tendency to say that children are resilient and we don’t lie when we say it, but the fact is that the last few years have put a strain on everyone. Children who were struggling before COVID-19 have had exacerbated problems. We want to collaborate and expand facilities like this to meet the needs of the community for all. “
Whitmer said he hopes his proposals are something the state legislature in Lansing supports. In his mind, Whitmer said, physical and mental health and the education of children should be a top priority for everyone.
“The younger we can reach the people who need a little extra support, that’s how we will make a difference the best,” he said. “These investments are very important and I hope that anyone who thinks this way turns to their legislator.”
Michelle Styma, CEO of TBCHS, said she appreciated that the governor took the time to visit and learn more about the services offered and future plans. She said continued federal and state government support can help a growing number of children in need of assistance.
“Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that all children 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 for meeting the needs in our schools and communities and we appreciate the support. “
Whitmer said making sure all people get the mental health treatment they need is critical because it could help reduce violent crime, especially shootings. You said that investing in common sense and legislation that helps keep firearms away from those who shouldn’t have them are a good place to start.
Whitmer said that in the days and weeks following the Oxford shooting, it was difficult for her, the Oxford community and the state as a whole to cope with the senseless loss of life.
Four people were killed in Oxford in November and seven others were injured when a suspect opened fire at Oxford High School.
“These tragedies are happening in places of worship, in grocery stores, in schools, in hospitals and we are seeing increasing gun violence devastating people’s lives,” Whitmer said. “We have had some difficult days in recent years and the ones after Oxford have been the hardest. I think whether it’s safe storage, background checks or red flag laws, I believe there are some places where we can find common ground that won’t affect the rights of hunters and gun owners. But we have to make sure we keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. “