What new mental health legislation does to help children

The $ 92 million mental health spending package for Governor Walz addresses youth mental health in a variety of ways.

MINNEAPOLIS – In the last hours of the legislature, Minnesota lawmakers approved a $ 92.7 million mental health spending package that will affect Minnesota people of all ages, including a growing number of children who have experienced a pandemic mental health crisis.

For months, KARE 11’s “Kids in Crisis” report has helped shed light on cases of children seeking care in hospital emergency rooms due to lack of resources elsewhere.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota, says last-minute legislation will help address the issue in a significant way.

“One way it helps is to create children’s crisis homes,” Abderholden said. “We have them for adults, but not for children.”

New crisis spaces in particular would help cope with the rise of children coming to the ER due to a mental health crisis, but then because they are stuck in it because they don’t need hospital care, but because they need something.

“This could be something like that,” he said. “It’s not a new Medicaid benefit. We are able to add it to our crisis stabilization services so we can help children in residential facilities. They can add a couple of beds for crisis beds, and in shelters, even in youth shelters.”

For children in need of hospital care, the new legislation also removes the moratorium on new mental health beds for the next five years, with the opening of a mental health unit for 22-bed youth waiting for children in Minnesota this fall.

“It’s really effective for us to provide more acute hospital-based services when children are in a mental health crisis,” said Jamie Winter, Minnesota’s Director of Child Mental Health.

Winter says there was a 30% jump in the need for these acute services in Minnesota Children last year, and continues to record demand.

“I think what we really see is that when it comes to the hospital, when mental health concerns aren’t caught up in the river or first identified, then the kids need to go into our emergency department, or spend time with us in the hospital,” he said.

With that in mind, the mental health bill increases funding for a program called School Linked.

“This really helps families face many barriers to getting their children treated,” Abderholden said. “Instead of leaving work once a week for 22 weeks, or – in the greater Minnesota – driving more than 60 miles to get treatment; with School Linked, we go to where the children are. We make sure we have mental health professionals there to diagnose and treat them.

“Schooling has proven to be quite effective. We’re not in every school. I think we’re in 60 percent of real school buildings, and yet those providers usually book in November or December.”

But not all early intervention services got the critical boost they expected.

“One of the areas that is missing is an increase in rates for day care providers for both children and adults,” Abderholden said. “And that emergency funding is, in fact, to stabilize our children’s services.”

He says state funding for the new 9-8-8 mental health crisis hotline, which will launch nationwide in July, is also not included.

Abderholden: “When the people of Minnesota call 9-8-8, we want the people of Minnesota to answer those calls. We needed more funding to do that, but that didn’t come into play.”

Erdahl: “What does this mean for the phone line here?”

Sue: “It means more out-of-state calls will be answered. If we want to send mobile mental health crisis groups to all 87 counties in Minnesota, we need people in Minnesota to answer those calls.”

Erdahl: “This has been at a crisis level for a while, and I know there were concerns before the pandemic. Where does this lead us?”

Abderholden: “This takes us a little further to help us deal with the crisis. What it will take to deal with it all remains to be seen.”

The bill provides $ 4 million in additional funding to statewide crisis intervention teams that help respond to mental health emergencies.

It is also putting millions of dollars into new funding programs to help mental health professionals get into their careers. However, Abderholden argues that in order to address a major labor shortage, the wage rates of those working in mental health should also be corrected.

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