The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

March 30, 2014

Our View: Closure shows mental health gaps

Why it matters: Patchwork funding, lack of comprehensive system of care puts vulnerable citizens at risk.

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Community mental health centers treat many patients who are either uninsured or underinsured. And despite efforts from the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone to provide equal insurance coverage for mental health, regulations have been lagging. It was hoped the passage of the Affordable Care Act would address this.

Minnesota has struggled long and hard but with few champions emerging, notably Wellstone and now U.S. Sen. Al Franken. Statewide, Sen. Kathy Sheran of Mankato is at the forefront as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.

Last week, she introduced action seeking to have such care providers submit accountable plans on how they will transfer clients and records if they close. It also directs counties to prepare transition plans for continuity of care and advance notice of closure.

And it requires the commissioner of Human Services to report on alternate payment methods as well as address concerns of payment rates.

But she acknowledges: “This is a short term action as we move to improve the overall infrastructure.”

“In general, mental health services haven’t been well reimbursed and consequently we are short in adequate mental health workforce across the state,” Hartford told reporters. “How do you recruit people to areas of short supply? Sometimes, the reimbursement streams don’t support that.”

Mental health advocates have been warning the state doesn’t have enough psychiatric services for the mentally ill.

We need to understand that such citizens are truly some of the most vulnerable. We need a top-down revamping of how we provide mental health care in this state and baby steps won’t get us there fast enough.

Minnesotans have been known as compassionate and giving people who take care of those in need.

However, this abrupt closure, continued inadequate funding and the lack of widespread, sustained news coverage just belies the fact we as a state have much more to do to earn that distinction.

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