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Human services conferees start work of compromising on budget bills

The House and Senate have different human services policy and program appropriations in their supplemental budget bills. The process of compromising began Friday at the first meeting of the human services conference committee.

The conferees looked at side-by-side comparisons of their respective bills and budgets and took testimony from the public and state agency representatives.

“We got a lot of work ahead of us, so I look forward to that,” said Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin).

Hoffman and Rep. Mohamud Noor (DFL-Mpls) are the sponsors of HF5280/SF5335*.

The supplemental General Fund spending target for human services is $42.13 million in fiscal year 2025.

The human services committee remit is disability services, aging services, substance use disorder services, health facility care and treatment for civilly committed individuals, and matters related to the new Direct Care and Treatment Agency.

The House bill also contains a controversial human services response contingency fund. Recommended by the governor at $10 million for fiscal year 2025, the House has budgeted $606,000, and the Senate nothing.

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes generated the most discussion.

The Senate would drop the lowest level of reimbursement rates from $192 per day per resident to $141 per day for around-the-clock, customized living services at facilities with a high proportion of residents on public programs.

“These are individuals who are coming from untenable living situations, often homelessness,” said Lindsay Schmidt, assisted living director at Dellwood Gardens Assisted Living and Memory Care. Behavioral health needs among this population require additional staff time, as well as money to recruit and retain talented staff, she said.

Under the proposed recidivism reduction program, the state would apply to the federal government for an 1115 waiver with Medicaid. If approved, it would allow individuals eligible for medical assistance to enroll prior to their release. This would allow each individual to identify medical providers and support mechanisms before their release in order to allow for a more successful re-entry into their community. 

The House has budgeted $6.53 million in fiscal year 2025 and $12.61 million in the 2026-27 biennium for the Human Services and Corrections departments for this program; the Senate has $6.36 million in fiscal year 2025 for the Department of Human Services.

A net of 45 substance use disorder programs have closed in the past two years and overdose deaths are not decreasing, said Brian Zirbes, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health. He testified in favor of the 1115 waiver proposal, as well as the House appropriation to increase reimbursement rates for substance use disorder facilities by 3%.

The committee has not announced its next meeting.

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