UM Health-Sparrow raises awareness about mental health

Published: May 28, 2024

LANSING, Mich. – During this National Mental Health Awareness Month, University of Michigan Health-Sparrow is raising the alarm about the desperate need for mental health services in Mid-Michigan. UM Health-Sparrow, along with health systems across the country, has been managing high levels of patients with psychiatric disorders, depression and severe anxiety.

The UM Health-Sparrow Lansing Emergency Department has evaluated around 4,500 behavioral health patients annually since 2020 and is on pace to see even more this year.

“The crisis not only affects patients, but along with a critical shortage in behavioral health caregivers, it also poses significant challenges to health care infrastructure and the delivery of care,” said Chandu Vemuri, M.D., chief medical officer at UM Health-Sparrow Lansing.

“The treatment of behavioral health patients is a community issue, and we need state and local agencies to do their part to alleviate the huge increase in patients being held, pending treatment, in our emergency department and at other hospital EDs throughout the state.”

Roughly 1.7 million Michigan residents are living with a mental illness, including children and adolescents. Ricarah Sunshine Riddle, a Lansing mother whose son has been diagnosed with PTSD, depression, sensory processing disorder and anxiety following years of mental and physical harm, along with bullying at school, says there needs to be more funding and access to services for young people.

“There are plenty of children that are suffering from mental health challenges that are going either undiagnosed or untreated. And what ends up happening down the line is that looks like problems academically, that looks like social issues, that looks like children getting involved in juvenile justice,” Riddle said.

University of Michigan Health is committed to being part of the solution. Earlier this month, we opened a new health clinic inside Grand Ledge High School. The clinic employs a social worker who helps patients and students address their mental health needs. Nurses and techs trained in psychiatry have been deployed to care for patients in the UM Health-Sparrow Lansing emergency department, and nine pet therapy dogs, including a full-time employed dog and trainer, round with patients at our hospitals.

UM Health-Sparrow will continue to look for ways to improve access and increase resources for those in need.

To learn more about leading-edge mental health services at UM Health-Sparrow,visit


University of Michigan Health-Sparrow is Mid-Michigan’s premier health care organization and includes hospitals in Lansing, Carson City, Charlotte, Ionia and St. Johns, as well as UM Health-Sparrow Specialty Hospital, Care Network, the Michigan Athletic Club, and AL!VE. UM Health-Sparrow is part of University of Michigan Health. Through the dedication of our 10,000 team members, UM Health-Sparrow pursues a vision to be nationally recognized as a leader in quality and patient experience. For more information, visit