Newspaper article

2013 Has Been a Banner Year for Minnesota Children's Mental Health

Newspaper article

2013 Has Been a Banner Year for Minnesota Children's Mental Health

Article excerpt

At the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, there was a lot of discussion about how to prevent mass shootings, driven in large part by the tragedies at Accent Signage and Newtown, Conn. There were calls for changes in gun laws and in the mental-health system. With the session concluded there has been surprisingly little coverage on what the Legislature did to improve the mental-health system. This is troubling because it seems as if the only attention paid to the mental-health system is when it doesn't work. People need to know that things are changing in order to have hope for the future.

The 2013 session was actually a banner year for children's mental health. Focus needed to be here because half of all adults with a serious mental illness begin exhibiting symptoms before the age of 14. If we wait until they are adults, we have waited too long. These efforts were kicked off in February with a press conference filled with legislators and advocates and the subsequent introduction of 12 bills. There were about 29 provisions in those bills, and 17 of them passed. Yet none of the successes was covered by the media.

Included in the governor's budget, the funding was increased 50 percent for the first year and 100 percent for the second year of the biennium. These grants to mental-health providers who deliver treatment in our schools have proven to decrease the barriers faced by children in accessing mental-health treatment and to improve outcomes.

A number of services were added to the benefits reimbursed under Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, including family education and care coordination. In-reach services were added so that care could be provided when a child leaves the hospital or emergency room to help reduce readmissions and ensure a smooth transition. Increased funding is available for community mental-health crisis teams.

Work-force shortages addressed

Addressing work-force shortages was also included in these bills. Building on the use of peer specialists in the adult mental-health system, family peer specialists will operate within existing children's mental-health programs. Behavioral-health aides will be able to obtain a certificate through our community colleges. …

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