Minnesota to spend $93 million on mental health

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The mother on the other end of the line was desperate.

Her daughter, who had been sexually abused and was having suicidal thoughts, was in the emergency room of a hospital with 10 other children. There were no programs open for the child and her mother worried that she could not keep her safe at home.

“It was so heartbreaking to hear from her,” said Connie Ross, residential services administrator for North Homes Children and Family Services, a Minnesota mental health service provider. “But these are the kinds of calls we get all day. So we really, really need to fund these programs.”

Individuals, parents and mental health providers have spent months sharing similar stories with state leaders, hoping that a record budget surplus and increased demand for mental health services during the pandemic would spur the ‘stock. On the last night of the legislative session, as negotiations on other issues stalled, lawmakers and advocates scrambled to put together an 11-hour set of articles on mental health that everyone could talk about. get along.

Concerns about the well-being of children and students after two years of the pandemic have helped push $92.7 million in new mental health funding to the finish line. Governor Tim Walz signed the bill into law last week.

“Especially around the students, there was such concern about their mental health that we had to do something about it,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of mental health advocacy organization NAMI Minnesota. “It has a lot to do with the mental health of children.”

The legislation includes new funds that will go towards the mental health of schools and shelters for children and young people, while creating mental health crisis beds for children. The state currently only has adult crisis stabilization beds.

Stevie Borne was on a plane waiting to get home from a business trip when she saw a list of funding passed by lawmakers. Mother Eagan was so excited that for a minute she had trouble breathing. Time and time again, her family has been caught “between a rock and a hard place,” Borne said, debating whether to take her child, who suffered from depression and anxiety, to the emergency room or stay home. .

“Having crisis stabilization beds, I think, is going to be huge,” she said, adding, “A lot of parents I talk to have similar experiences.”

The package is spending nearly $10 million to help speed up response times for mobile mental health crisis services that cover all 87 counties. Lawmakers have also attempted to address the severe labor shortage in the mental health care sector by funding the cancellation of loans for mental health professionals and helping to cover necessary supervision for anyone. entering the domain. Finding supervision has been a major hurdle for people trying to complete their licensing requirements.

“If we don’t have professionals to work in the kind of facilities we crave, it’s no use to us,” said Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, one of the bill’s sponsors. . “The frustration built up, and the whole point of this bill was to get more access, more professionals.”

As part of the deal, lawmakers also agreed to spend $32 million over three years to try to address the state’s problem with those deemed unfit to stand trial. Currently, these individuals are thrown back into the world without a safety net, sometimes committing crimes and ending up in the system.

The agreement creates a new council that will oversee more than 120 navigators across the state who will help those deemed incompetent stand trial to find housing, treatment and other services they may need.

“We’re finally getting to a point where people understand that we can’t give up, every life matters and we have to work with them and try to give them a chance,” said Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, who works on the issue of skills restoration for three years.

For Sarah Washington, a Minneapolis resident and mental health advocate, the $2 million for school-related behavioral health grants is particularly critical, along with the $1 million allocated to a community mental health center specializing in African-American family services. There’s a lot of trauma in the community and parents are overwhelmed, Washington said, and the money for this center is important.

“But they are going to have to give this agency support, training,” she said. “I want it to be sustainable…$1 million will go fast.”

Trevor Johnson, senior director of behavioral health services at the Lutheran Social Service, echoed Washington’s concern about sustainable funding. He said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the $2 million spent on shelter-related mental health services. The state earmarked $500,000 for this purpose a few years ago and a handful of agencies have secured those dollars, he said, but the need exceeds that amount.

“It’s a really good start,” Johnson said of the legislative package. “These are still band-aids. Even in these areas, more funding could be used tomorrow, next year and the year after.”

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