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Funding boost requested to fill statewide gaps in mental health services

Adult Mental Health Initiatives first emerged as pilot projects in the 1990s, as a way of addressing regional needs left by the closure of state hospitals.

The regional collaborations at the core of this approach expanded and strengthened over time, developing into a way for counties, tribal governments, and service providers to meet local needs and fill the gaps that remain between other services.

“(They) help pull the pieces together so that each region of the state … can have their unique needs met and all of our people can be sufficiently cared for,” said Rep. Liz Reyer (DFL-Eagan).

She sponsors HF1600, which would provide $6 million funding boosts to the state’s Adult Mental Health Initiative grants in fiscal years 2022 and 2023, with the appropriations coming from the General Fund.

The House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee laid the bill over Wednesday for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

A companion, SF1475, is sponsored by Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) and awaits action by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.

Services provided by AMHIs range from education and outreach; to housing and transportation assistance; to employment, peer support, and case management services; to helping people access therapy, intensive residential treatment, and other programs and services, said Emily Schug, deputy director of Dakota County Social Services.

“Overall, AMHI funding has been used to hold together and continue to innovate a fragile and fractured system,” she said. “It’s utilized to support many necessary services that would otherwise not be available or sustainable.”

The need for these initiatives – and the regional flexibility they allow – will continue to increase as people cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, testifiers said.

Lori Long, a St. Cloud mental health consultant, said that services provided by AMHIs not only helped her access crisis services when she needed them, but also connected her with the ongoing treatment and social supports that have allowed her to achieve stability and flourish, despite the challenges.

“My Adult Mental Health Initiative helped save my life and I’m so, so grateful,” she said. “We could help so many more people struggling to live with mental illness.”

Rep. Jordan Rasmusson (R-Fergus Falls) said that in the past year, AMHI funding helped a nonprofit in Otter Tail County serve 154 job seekers struggling with serious mental illness and helped 77 find new jobs, despite the additional challenges caused by the pandemic.

Rep. Kristin Robbins (R-Maple Grove) said she is uncomfortable with the statute’s ambiguity regarding how the proposed funding increase would be used and distributed.

“The gaps are different from place to place across the state” Reyer said. “So, when you see funds allocated to these different types of services, my expectation … is that we’ll be able to have even more mortar to connect the pieces.”

The Department of Human Services would distribute funding proportionally across existing programs using current allocations as a guide, said Government Relations Director Matt Burdick.

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