Mental Health Grant Program Aims to Ease Burden on Jail System

Legislation to better serve some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable adults passed the Judiciary Committee unanimously this week. The bill encompasses a grant program providing $8 million for up to four mental health centers throughout the state. These pioneering treatment centers would be designed to be an alternative location to jail for people in a mental health crisis. Individuals with mental health issues are particularly vulnerable in a conventional jail facility, but many communities throughout the state have no other option.

Half of the grants will go to Greater Minnesota, where some cities are currently 150 miles away from a facility with a crisis bed. As a result of this failure to serve these communities, between 30% and 70% of jailed residents have a mental illness of some kind. In addition to short-term treatments, comprehensive centers would also have options for continuous care.

Holding a person with a mental illness in a jail not equipped to treat them can be very expensive; supporters claim that this bill will save the state money in the long term due to the off-set costs from local jail facilities. The bill will next be heard in the Health, Human Services, and Housing Policy Committee. (S.F. 141)

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