The Senate Health and Human Services committee passed a bill this week that includes several mental health proposals to support the workforce and increase resources available to Minnesotans. The bill was moved to the Finance Committee for further consideration.
The pandemic has put a serious strain on the state’s already underfunded mental health system. Staffing shortages and rising demand create delays and waitlists for outpatient and inpatient mental health services, leaving children and adults without the care they need. This bill has bipartisan proposals that would increase loan forgiveness and cover supervision costs for mental health professionals, removing barriers providers face in entering the workforce. It also dedicates more grant funding for adult mental health services, school and shelter-linked mental health services, and mobile crisis response.
This bill is a start, but so much more could be done to support the mental health needs of Minnesotans. There is no funding to increase the availability of psychiatric inpatient or residential treatment beds in Minnesota; these shortages can leave people waiting in emergency rooms for days until a placement is found. It also ignores DFL proposals that would respond to the serious mental health needs of our nurses and other healthcare providers, who are experiencing burnout and trauma after being on the frontlines of this pandemic for over two years. Finally, a modest increase in school-linked mental health grants won’t make up for the seriously deficient education bill put forward by Senate Republicans that has no additional funding to support kids’ mental health or increases for the number of school counselors or school psychologists.
Passing mental health investments this session is critical, but this is the only budget bill being considered by the HHS committee this year. With committee deadlines passing, Senate Republicans are making it clear they will not support any proposal that would significantly lower the cost of healthcare or prescription drugs, increase supports like home visiting, or revitalize the broader healthcare workforce. As this bill moves forward, DFLers will continue to support not only investments in mental health, but investments throughout the health and human services system. (SF 3249)