COVID-19 Update: U.S. Grants State $2.3M in Mental Health Funding, Michigan Reveals Long-term Care Facility Strategy, Digital Assistance for Black-owned Businesses, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of April 20

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Federal Government – Behavioral Health Grants
Two federal grants totaling $2.3 million have been awarded to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA) to combat the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on Michiganders.

One grant was awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The other was awarded by FEMA in partnership with SAMHSA, with funds distributed through the Michigan State Police.

The SAMHSA Emergency COVID-19 grant will provide BHDDA with $2 million to assist Michigan citizens living with mental health and/or substance use disorders, as well as those with less severe mental illness, including health care professionals. Funding is to be used within 16 months. To optimize the grant opportunity, MDHHS will partner with five Community Mental Health Services Programs (CMHSPs) that were identified as having the greatest need relative to the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Au Sable Valley Community Mental Health Authority (serving Iosco, Ogemaw, and Oscoda counties).
  • Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network.
  • Genesee Health System.
  • HealthWest (serving Muskegon County).
  • Saginaw County Community Mental Health Authority.

SAMHSA grant funding will allow these organizations to hire and train much-needed staff, provide mental health screening, expand telehealth services, and create a variety of programs to help patients manage depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief related to COVID-19.

A second grant, the Immediate Services Program: Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program (CCP) grant, will provide BHDDA with $372,000 to roll out a short-term emergency program with four main components:

  • Crisis counseling from CCP-trained counselors accessed via the MDHHS COVID-19 hotline.
  • Highly specialized outreach to the Detroit metropolitan area (the region most heavily impacted by COVID-19), offering crisis counseling to families with children, seniors, first responders, health care providers, and those with racial or ethnic health disparities.
  • CCP training of volunteers.
  • Emotional support for low-acuity COVID-19 patients living in state-supplied isolation housing.

CCP grant funding is to be used within 60 days. However, BHDDA says it plans to pursue a secondary CCP grant that, if awarded, would allow Michigan to extend its CCP program an additional nine months.

State Government – Long-term Care Facility Strategies
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is rolling out a comprehensive strategy to combat the impact of COVID-19 in long-term care settings and ensure residents and employees are protected. This includes an Emergency Order issued by MDHHS Director Robert Gordon regarding transfers and reporting requirements.

The strategy includes the following actions:

  • Mandates enhanced reporting requirements for all long-term care settings.
  • Activates a COVID-19 Infection Prevention Resource and Assessment Team (COVID iPRAT).
  • Establishes MDHHS-designated COVID-19 Regional Hubs.

Beginning today, MDHHS will mandate all long-term-care facilities (nursing homes, homes for the aged, adult foster care facilities, and assisted living facilities) submit daily reports to MDHHS. Using the EMResource platform, facilities will be required to submit up-to-date information regarding current capacity/bed availability, personal protective equipment inventory, and the current number of COVID-19 cases and deaths within their facility.

MDHHS has established a COVID iPRAT team comprised of staff members from across the Public Health Administration Division of Communicable Diseases. The COVID iPRAT was designed to help prevent COVID-19 infections and contain the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities. The team will work closely with the Medical Services Administration, Michigan Long-term Care Ombudsman, Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and local health department partners.

Through the iPRAT, local health departments and long-term care facilities in their jurisdiction will have access to training on the latest MDHHS, CDC, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidance. Additionally, facilities will receive focused review of infection control policies and procedures, standardized trainings and protocols, remote contact tracing assistance, and remote facilitation of an Infection Prevention and Control Assessment using CDC’s Tele-ICAR tool.

MDHHS also has established a regional hub strategy to assist in reducing the spread of COVID-19 within congregate care settings. COVID-19 Regional Hubs are dedicated to treating COVID-19-affected individuals from congregate care settings who do not require hospital-level care.

COVID-19 Regional Hubs will be designated by MDHHS and announced as they are established. Facilities across the state are being considered for this model based on willingness to serve as a hub facility, capacity to contribute to local need for services, proximity to acute care facilities experiencing high COVID-19-related demand, ability to effectively quarantine COVID-19-affected residents, and performance history of the facility. COVID-19 Regional Hubs will be required to complete enhanced reporting to the department on a daily basis.

Digital Assistance for Black-owned Businesses
Several national technology firms have invested more than $1.8 million into developing the National Business League’s digital solutions platform, which is designed to close the digital divide for Black-owned small businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBL launches its new technology platform on April 27 with several major initiatives, digitizing the 120 year-old organization’s entire operations online, including the creation of a new website and mobile app, the use of live streaming, social media platforms, on-demand virtual education and training center, and a host of other services provided to close the technology gap among Black-owned businesses. Computech CXL and MPS Group led a group of technology firms including CatalystXL, Locostation, and Naranjo Designs to invest in and build out the organization’s digital solution platform to assist and measure the public and private sector, federal government, and banking industry as a pipeline to engagement with the Black and minority business community.

Black-owned businesses have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the NBL digital solution platform will help these entities connect with the government and lending institutions virtually throughout America to efficiently participate in the CARES Act rollout.

“Due to the severity of the coronavirus impact on Black-owned businesses, the NBL and technology investors developed the league’s digital solutions platform to assist the federal government, major corporations, and traditional lenders to ensure resources and opportunities reach underserved small businesses in America,” says Kenneth L. Harris, president and CEO of the National Business League, which operates a Detroit office and has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Health Care Data
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced an ongoing partnership with Oracle, including Oracle’s donation to HHS of the Therapeutic Learning System, an online platform designed to collect real-time medical data related to COVID-19.

The Therapeutic Learning System is a safe, secure web portal designed to gather crowd-sourced, real-time information from doctors and other clinicians about how patients are responding to possible therapeutics to treat COVID-19. The data will not be owned by Oracle or any other private entity.

“We know how important it is to all Americans that we find treatments to help fight back against this invisible enemy, and the platform Oracle has built will help get us as much data as we can collect as quickly as possible,” says Alex Azar, HHS secretary. “Oracle’s platform will help give us the ability to see real-time information about the patient impact of possible therapeutics around the country, which is critical to combating COVID-19 and reopening the American economy.”

Doctors and other clinicians who would like to help provide this data can begin reporting on their work with affected patients immediately at The online portal also provides the ability of COVID-19 patients to self-report from home.

The portal is designed to deliver instantaneous analysis of what is working and what is not from the treatment and experience of patients around the country, providing analytics on types of patients, age brackets, underlying health conditions, and symptoms.

In Related News, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and 26 Michigan hospitals are collecting comprehensive clinical data on COVID-19 patients to be included in an extensive registry that will provide insight into best practices in treating patients with the virus.

Titled MI-COVID19: The Comprehensive, Multi-site Registry, it likely will be one of the largest collections of COVID-19 patient data to date. It was developed at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center in Ann Arbor, by a team that already leads other BCBSM-funded quality collaboratives.

Because the registry will include anonymous patient data from multiple hospitals throughout the state, it will offer a line of sight across geographic, economic, and demographic boundaries. This provides a comprehensive clinical picture that’s not typically available from smaller registries that contain data from just one hospital or health system.

“We’re fortunate in Michigan to have a mechanism in place that enables fast collaboration among providers to address critical health challenges such as the COVID-19 crisis,” says Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of BCBSM.

“Given the rapid onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, understanding of patient care has been largely anecdotal, with limited data for providers to understand how to identify and treat patients,” says Dr. Thomas Simmer, chief medical officer of BCBSM. “So, using the existing platform we use in the statewide Collaborative Quality Initiatives, we were able to rapidly gain statewide provider interest to convene the staff and hospitals necessary to launch this new effort.”

The data collection is coordinated through the Michigan Hospital Medicine Safety consortium (HMS), a Blue Cross-funded CQI led by physicians at Michigan Medicine and focused on improving quality of care for hospitalized patients who are at risk for adverse events.

“What we learn from this work will not only help now with currently hospitalized patients, but in the future should we experience another wave of COVID-19 patients,” says Dr. Scott Flanders, program director of HMS, chief clinical strategy officer at Michigan Medicine, and professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Additionally, by studying long-term effects, we can better understand why some people need readmission to the hospital, or how long it takes to return to normal health.”

Medical Supplies
Flagstar Bank in Troy has donated $300,000 to Detroit Sewn, a woman-owned cut and sew manufacturer located in Pontiac, to produce 85,000 cloth masks for local medical workers and first responders.

In addition, Flagstar Bank said it partnered with officials across metro Detroit to identify the areas of greatest need, including local hospitals and first responders. This week, 10,000 masks will be delivered to medical workers at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, and 3,000 masks will be delivered to police and fire departments in Ecorse, Inkster, and Highland Park. Additional distribution sites are being determined.

In addition, to support local restaurants and in partnership with Oakland County, Flagstar Bank said it is donating $15,000 to help seed the Downtown Pontiac Restaurant Brigade, a program that supplies meals to medical workers, as well as Pontiac residents impacted by COVID-19. Currently, seven restaurants are part of the program, which also will provide masks to the restaurant workers.

Support for Hospital Workers, Restaurants
The Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) Metro Detroit, a Bloomfield Hills-based nonprofit that supports hospital workers, reports that it has provided more than 20,000 meals to health care workers at 33 hospitals in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties and Ann Arbor.

At the same time, the organization’s efforts are providing much needed business to about 50 local restaurants that prepare, package, and deliver the meals. More hospitals and restaurants are being added.

“It’s a very simple concept: FLAG Metro Detroit collects donations to support local restaurants who prepare and deliver meals to medical workers,” says Monica Toomey, one of six co-founders of the organization. “The hospitals, restaurants, and their staffs are part of the community. They’re family, friends, and neighbors. Through the donations, we’re feeding their bodies, lifting their spirits, and helping restaurants stay in business.”

All contributions are used to purchase meals for hospital workers from locally owned restaurants. Donations are tax deductible. No money is used for salaries or operating costs.

Visit here to donate online.

Food Support
Detroit Feeding Detroit, a local nonprofit, will offer a free meal for food and beverage and hotel workers on April 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Honest John’s restaurant at 488 Selden St. in Detroit’s Midtown district. There is no need to reserve for the curbside pickup program, with one meal limit per person (a vegan meal option will be available). To learn about donation opportunities, click here.

In Related News, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in Auburn Hills today announced it is making an undisclosed donation, in partnership with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, to help address youth food insecurity related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since school closures in March, the Food Bank Council of Michigan has served an additional 1 million children and teens who rely on school meals for food. The FCA donation comes during the launch of a virtual statewide food drive,, that will help the state’s seven regional food banks continue to provide meals using drive-through distribution. In addition, donors can purchase senior quarantine boxes, each of which provide 22 nutritious meals to vulnerable older residents.
“Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has come alongside us at a time of unprecedented need,” says Dr. Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “Their donation, and the generosity of so many others, help makes sure that food insecurity is one worry we can take off the table for Michiganders during this crisis.”

For more information on the Food Bank Council of Michigan’s response to COVID-19, click here.

Live-Stream Event
Steward Media in Birmingham and CEO and Founder Derek Dickow is hosting Impact on April 22 at 11:30 a.m., the first of an eight-week free live-stream event. This week’s topic: “The Impact on Retail” in light of COVID-19. Insightful panel includes a cross-section of retail leaders in metro Detroit. A portion of proceeds goes to the Children’s Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. DBusiness Magazine is proud to be a sponsor. Register at

St. Louis-based Spartech says it is supplying essential clear plastic materials to Duo Form, a Cass County company (in the southwest corner of the state near the Indiana border) now producing intubation boxes and safety shields to help protect health care professionals.

“Like Spartech, our main objective is to protect health care workers as we work together to end this global pandemic,” says Mike Gonser, director of new product development at Duo Form.

Spartech supplied Duo Form with DuraGard, a clear polycarbonate product that will be used in Duo Form intubation boxes and retail safety shields. Durable and strong, the thick gauge product is ideal for protecting medical and health care facilities. DuraGard also can be used in applications such as sneeze-guards at retail and grocery store checkout lanes.

Duo Form’s intubation boxes provide additional protection between medical staff and patients when an endotracheal intubation is needed for a patient with known or suspected COVID-19. In addition, the transportable box can be kept over a patient’s head when the patient is being moved to different hospital units. Spartech is also supplying Duo Form with UltraTuf PETG, another material that will be used in Duo Form face shields.

DTE Energy today launched a new Personalized Service Protection program to help customers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. The plan is available immediately and helps ensure impacted customers can retain the energy service they need during the ongoing pandemic.

“We have made modifications to our customer payment plans to accommodate a variety of customer needs,” says Jerry Norcia, president and CEO, DTE Energy. “We now have a flexible program that draws upon the many forms of assistance we offer, so we can personalize solutions for customers based on their circumstances.”

Residential customers concerned they may not be able to pay their energy bills due to income reductions or health impacts from COVID-19 are encouraged to call DTE at 800-477-4747 to discuss their situation with a representative, who can help set up a Personalized Service Protection plan for them.

DTE also is assisting business customers experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.  Businesses are encouraged to contact DTE at 855-383-4249 to explore options for help.

“The worst thing a customer could do is not call us,” says Angie Pizzuti, vice president and chief customer officer, DTE Energy. “We don’t want to see our customers get further behind and have a bigger burden to overcome as we emerge from the pandemic. If you are in trouble, please call us so that we can work with you.”

Some of the customized services that will be made available to eligible customers include fee waivers, payment assistance, and flexible repayment options.

In related news: The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) in Detroit today announced it has developed and launched a dedicated utility relief program for essential workers that begins on April 22. The announcement was made by Saunteel Jenkins, CEO of THAW.

“Our front-line workers are our lifeblood and are giving us every bit of their energy,” say Jenkins. “They are selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way each and every day. We want them to know that we see them. We appreciate them. We support them. And that we are fighting for them. This program is focused on giving some of that energy back.”

Essential workers across Michigan with household incomes up to 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level guidelines may qualify for up to $500 in utility assistance per household. THAW is following the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s definition of essential worker. Examples include hospital cleaning, maintenance and support staff, grocery and food service, transportation and many others. It also includes front-line workers who have lost income due to themselves or household members contracting the virus and/or quarantine requirements. The bill payments will be paid directly to the utility vendor by THAW.

“While many of these workers make too much to qualify for traditional assistance programs such as Michigan Energy Assistance Program, they may not earn enough to bridge the gap between their monthly income and the basic cost of living,” says Jenkins. “These heroes need our help now more than ever.”

The program is being funded through a combination of mission-specific fundraising, a matching $40,000 donation from Enbridge Inc., and a portion of a $300,000 Consumers Energy donation secured through a settlement by the Michigan Attorney General’s office.

Individuals can apply online here. Upon approval, THAW will make the payment directly to the utility. Qualifying utilities include electric, heat, and water.

To make a donation to the program, visit here.

Higher Education
The Wayne State University board of governors in Detroit has approved a proposal to temporarily suspend the standardized test score requirement for new fall 2020 freshmen applicants. The temporary suspension would be for students who are unable to take their SAT or ACT due to COVID-19.

“We understand what a challenging time this is for high school seniors,” says Ericka M. Jackson, senior director of undergraduate admissions at WSU. “We want to provide a path to Wayne State for those students who have not yet taken the SAT or ACT. Now is the time to be helpful, supportive, and allow latitude for students to apply without submitting a test score.”

In order to properly execute a test-optional holistic review for late fall freshmen applicants, the undergraduate admissions department will use additional staffing resources, dedicated academic advisors, and college transition coaches to ensure a smooth and successful transition to Wayne State.

“We do not expect that there will be a significant number of high school seniors who have not taken any entrance exam,” says Dawn Medley, associate vice president of enrollment management at WSU. “For those who are unable to submit a test score for consideration of their admission decision, alternative options need to be provided. We want to be supportive of those in need so as not to delay a student’s goal of beginning college in the fall.”

For students currently applying for the fall who have not taken a college entrance exam, a holistic review process will be used. The admission decision will be based on evaluation of additional factors and materials submitted by applicants.

Test-optional students will require placement testing at Wayne State to determine appropriate college-level coursework and more substantive academic advising.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne State University aims to be flexible and supportive,” says Keith Whitfield, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Especially for high school seniors who have not yet taken a college entrance exam.”

For more information regarding undergraduate admission requirements, contact the Student Service Center at 313-577-2100 or email

In Related News: Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti has expanded its EMU CARES Grant program for students affected by the COVID-19 crisis to include graduate students. The EMU CARES Grant was introduced last week, initially for undergraduate students while the university assessed the most effective way to support graduate students. After that assessment, it was determined that graduate students would benefit under the same terms.

The one-time grant provides $500 to all students, undergraduate and graduate, enrolling in one three-credit course, and $1,000 for all students, undergraduate and graduate, enrolling in two courses, or six credit hours. It applies to current students as well as guest and transfer students who enroll in Eastern’s more than 650 online/virtual summer courses, which begin May 4.

The EMU CARES Grant is designed to offset new costs and other hurdles students face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the additional expenses associated with online and hybrid courses. It provides an additional benefit to students to help them persist in their education and complete their degrees.

EMU requires no application to obtain an EMU CARES Grant. It will be automatically credited to students’ accounts for eligible summer 2020 courses.

Because the grant is designed to offset additional online fees students must pay due to COVID-19, the grant is available to students who take courses in which an online fee is charged – this includes the majority of summer courses. The grant aims to directly address concerns raised by some students about being required to take an online course because of the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition: Grand Valley State University in Allendale near Grand Rapids is hosting a virtual education conference on Thursday April 23 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. focused on the hospitality and event industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To register for the conference, titled Engage, Enrich, Enhance: Rebuilding the Foundation and Future of Hospitality and Tourism During COVID-19, visit here.

The event will feature hospitality and event industry leaders from around the world, who will provide resources for professionals and redefine the effectiveness of the industry’s future.

For more information, contact Lorie Tuma at 989-506-3805 or

Virtual Sleepout
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Covenant House, which shelters and supports young people facing homelessness and trafficking in more than 31 cities across North America – including sites in Detroit and Grand Rapids, is hosting its first national digital Sleep Out America on Friday, April 24 starting at 8 p.m.

People facing homelessness are more susceptible to COVID-19 and also are likely to get much sicker or die than people who are stably housed. Some estimates suggest transmission rates in households are above 80 percent, making youth living in congregant homeless shelters particularly at risk.

Covenant House is offering opportunities for individuals, families, and groups to organize their own quarantine-based Sleep Out to raise awareness and support for youth homelessness. Participants can Sleep Out wherever they’re practicing social distancing — backyard, driveway, or living room floor. Covenant House will hold a livestream where people can join throughout the night to hear youth stories, updates from our front-line staff across the country, and some special guests.

For more information and to participate, visit here.

Virtual Home Tour
Architectural Resource in Ann Arbor will host a free virtual event on April 25 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (EST) about a home it designed — Burh Becc at Beacon Springs in Ann Arbor. The event will offer ways people can transform their homes into sustainable residences that can support their families during a crisis such as COVID-19. The event will provide insights on the concepts, design, and systems at Burh Becc. Michael Klement, principal of Architectural Resource, along with homeowners Tom and Marti Burbeck, will lead the live virtual tour, and viewers will have the opportunity to ask questions during the event.
The presentation will include:

  • The sustainable systems that make the home autonomous: net zero energy, water, and waste.
  • A behind the scenes look at design diagrams and the building process.
  • A virtual photo tour of the completed residence.
  • Guidance for individuals seeking to transform their homes in anticipation of the “new normal.”

To register, visit here.

Lansing-based automotive aftermarket manufacturer Air Lift Co. is presenting a series of six free webinars about digital marketing geared towards the owners of automotive shops.

Led by Air Lift’s digital marketing strategies manager, Devin Pringle, the six-week ​Essential Online Marketing for Shops​ series will premiere on Thursday, April 23 at noon.

These webinars will provide a variety of marketing tips and insights geared specifically toward small shops for both during and after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They will not be specific to Air Lift products or services but rather how to create awareness, generate demand, and build profitability.

Topics will range from insights into how consumers are utilizing social media, how to take full advantage of social media platforms, create digital ad campaigns, optimize a shop’s online listing, and more. Registrants who attend the seminars will be eligible to win free Air Lift products at the conclusion of each session.

With the skills covered in these sessions, shop owners will be able to more effectively market themselves to consumers both now and in the future, according to Pringle. Webinars will be conducted every Thursday for the next six weeks.

For more information and to register for the first session of the series, ​visit here.