The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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St. Peter news

November 12, 2013

Committee hears mental health system slow, crowded

Professionals, patients detail needs

ST. PETER — About 7 years ago Brian Guess was waiting for a train, in the middle of the tracks it should have been rolling down, depressed and ready to end his life.

"It had been coming through at the same time for two weeks," he said. "That day it didn't come through."

Instead, a law enforcement officer came for him. He was taken to what was then Immanuel St. Joseph's Hospital, which is where many people having a mental health crisis in the Mankato area start what can be a long process for getting the help they need.

There was no room for him at the hospital, so he was sent to another facility in Worthington. He was taken there by a deputy. Deputies also transported him from Worthington to Mankato and back for the civil commitment hearings that followed. A Blue Earth County Health and Human Services employee had to make the 100-mile drive to Worthington to do a one hour assessment.

It's an inefficient process. And it makes an already stressful situation even more difficult to endure, Guess said.

He was one of six people asked to testify Tuesday at a special state Senate joint committee hearing at the St. Peter Community Center. The hearing focused on the mental health services process.

"I know it's your job to make the tough decisions about funding," he said. "But for me, my friends and the people I work with, it's our lives.

"A ride in the back of a sheriff's car to somewhere you don't know is an eternity. It's not an hour-and-a-half or two-hour trip. It's an eternity because you don't know what's going to be there."

Guess is now a certified peer specialist working at the South Central Crisis Center in Mankato. He said sending people out of the community for mental health care creates other problems, too. They don't develop relationships with their doctors, so their medications are frequently changed. Their families, who often don't have a lot of extra money, aren't always able to visit.

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