Minnesota will spend $ 93 million on mental health

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

Her daughter, who was sexually exploited and had suicidal thoughts, was in the emergency department of the hospital with 10 other children. There were no open programs for the child, and her mother feared she could not keep her at home.

“It was so heartbreaking to hear from her,” said Connie Ross, housing administrator for North Homes Children and Family Services, a major provider of mental health services in Minnesota. “But these are the 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 record budget surpluses and increased demand for mental health services during the pandemic will spur action. On the last night of the legislative session, as negotiations on other issues stalled, lawmakers and advocates struggled to gather an 11-hour package of mental health issues that anyone could agree on.

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

“Especially about the students, there was so much concern for their mental health that we had to do something,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the mental health advocacy organization NAMI Minnesota. “Much of this has to do with children’s mental health.”

The legislation includes new funding that will focus on schools and mental health for children and young people associated with shelters, while creating crisis beds for mental health for children. Currently, the state has only beds for crisis stabilization for adults.

Stevie Bourne was on a plane waiting to return home from a business trip when he saw a list of funding approved by lawmakers. Egan’s mother was so excited that she struggled to breathe for a minute. Again and again, her family was caught “between a rock and an anvil,” Bourne said, weighing whether to take her depressed and anxious child to the emergency room or stay home.

“I think having crisis stabilization beds will be huge,” she said, adding: “Many of the parents I’m talking to have had similar experiences.”

The package spends nearly $ 10 million to help speed up the response time for mobile mental health services in crises covering all 87 counties. Lawmakers have also sought to address the severe labor shortages in the mental health industry by funding loan forgiveness for mental health professionals and helping to cover the oversight needed by anyone entering the field. Finding supervision is a major obstacle for people trying to meet their licensing requirements.

“If we don’t have professionals working in whatever facilities we dream of, it doesn’t do us any good,” said Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Disappointment is growing and the whole goal 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 deal with the state’s fight against people who are found incompetent to stand trial. These people are now returning to the world without a safety net, sometimes committing crimes and re-entering the system.

The deal creates a new council that will monitor more than 120 navigators across the state to help those who are incompetent to be tried to find housing, treatment and other services they may need.

“We finally get to the point where people realize we can’t give up, every life is important and we need to work with them and try to give them a chance,” said Sen. Dave Sanjem, R-Rochester, who has been working on the issue of restoring competence for three years.

For Minneapolis resident and mental health advocate Sarah Washington, $ 2 million for school-related behavioral health scholarships is particularly important, as is $ 1 million allocated to a community mental health center specializing in afro- American families. There are many injuries in the community and parents are overwhelmed, Washington said, and the money for this center is important.

“But they will have to support this training agency,” she stressed. “I want it to be sustainable … $ 1 million will pass quickly.”

Trevor Johnson, senior director of behavioral health services at Lutheran Social Services, reiterated Washington’s concerns about sustainable funding. He said he was a “cautious optimist” about the $ 2 million shelter-related mental health services. The state set aside $ 500,000 for this purpose a few years ago, and a handful of agencies received the dollars, he said, but the need exceeds that amount.

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

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