Making targeted investments in needed Health and Human Services

Over the past two weeks, the Senate has been crafting a supplemental budget that addresses the state’s $1.2 billion budget reserve. The first step in this process, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, was the Tax Bill that offers $434 million in tax relief for Minnesota families and businesses. Our next step in the process was to find targeted investments for our education system, businesses and families. One aspect of this plan I would like to highlight is the investments we are making in our health and human services (HHS) system.

The biggest investment in the HHS is the 5% rate increase for home and community-based service (HCBS) providers and intermediate care facilities for those with developmental disabilities (ICF/DD). At least 80 percent of this funding will be used to increase the wages of people working with Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens. Almost all Minnesotans, either directly or indirectly, are somehow affected by the care these providers give. Approximately 6,600 people with disabilities, 24,900 older adults and 90,000 caregivers in Minnesota will be positively affected by this increase, which improve the quality of life for both the providers and the persons receiving this care.

Beyond the 5 percent rate increase, our legislation invests in homeless youth prevention, mental health support systems and additional services to end the sexual trafficking of our youth. More than 2,500 kids in Minnesota are either sleeping on the street or do not have a stable place to stay every night. This is not acceptable and we should be doing everything we can to reduce that number to zero. In an attempt to achieve that goal, our legislation increases funding for Homeless Youth Act programs by $1 million per year to help address the growing problem by coordinating efforts across the state to successfully challenge the causes of youth homelessness.

Our mental health services will receive a boost from two sections of the bill. The first investment of $1 million a year will go towards the Adult Mental Health Grants program. This will provide targeted services for individuals with a serious mental illness through Intensive Community Rehabilitation Services (ICRS), which are designed to prevent hospitalization, civil commitments and other adverse outcomes. Through this funding, ICRS will now be able to expand their services to help participants develop their own support networks and strengthen their ability to live independently. The second investment will be used for mental health crisis intervention. The funding will expand access to mobile mental health crisis teams that help identify and treat mental illness early and allow people to seek treatment before their mental health issue has a major impact on their life.

Over the past few years, Minnesota has made major steps toward the fair treatment of victims of sex trafficking. This included legislation to treat victims as victims (not criminals), grants to train local law enforcement in their attempt to help identify sex trafficking victims, and the creation of safety net of housing and support services for child sex trafficking victims. This year’s legislation continues the positive momentum by providing an additional $1.5 million per year for the implementation of our Safe Harbor Law. This funding will bring additional community safety, victim rehabilitation programs, protection of our vulnerable youth, and increase the accountability of those who engage in the sexual trafficking or exploitation of children.

This legislation will benefit thousands of Minnesotans and I am happy to support it. Investments like these are what make Minnesota a great place to live and the Senate will continue to look for targeted investments to aid our children, the elderly and vulnerable.

As always, please contact me with questions or suggestions regarding any issue. I encourage you to visit me at the Capitol, or let me know if you’d like me to stop by your home or apartment. Also, please tune in to my local cable TV show, “Your Capitol: What’s Up?,” which appears on public access channels 15 and 16. I can be reached by email at sen.chuck.wiger@senate.mn and by phone at 651-296-6820.

Senator Chuck Wiger
Chuck Wiger represents District 43, which includes portions of Ramsey and Washington counties in the northeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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