Advocacy for Mental Health Services in MN
Written by FamilyMeans Therapist, Brynn Stember; MSW, LICSW
There is a significant shortage of mental health resources in the United States, especially in rural areas (Ruiz, 2018). Although Minnesota is ranked among one of the top states for access to mental health care services in the country (Mental Health America, 2018), there continues to remain a need, according to Sue Abderholden Director of the MN branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (Werner, 2017).
Specifically in MN, there is a need for community services such as mobile crises and outreach teams. Each area in the state holds some level of need for increased mental health services and as a result, individuals in need of support are either obligated to travel a long distance to obtain services or do not receive necessary services at all (Werner, 2017). Additionally, there is a lack of psychiatric hospital beds for children and teens in MN (Reilly, 2018). There is also a significant shortage of psychiatrists. Reasons for the increased shortage include higher opioid addictions, diminished stigma and greater awareness of mental health concerns (Ruiz, 2018).
A recent topic in the news has been the vote against building a 60 bed children’s psychiatric facility for children and teenagers in Minnesota suburb, Forest Lake. This decision only exacerbated the growing need in rural areas for mental health services. This facility would have provided services for youth with diagnosis and concerns such as depression, anxiety, trauma or autism. Despite families giving their testimonies of the need for mental health services for their children and teenagers, the vote was made against the implementation of this psychiatric facility (Sepic; February, 2018). Hopeful news is that the non-profit, Hills Youth and Family Services hopes to have a facility opened by mid-2019 (Reilly, 2018).
As a mental health therapist who provides therapy to children, teenagers and adults, I am concerned by the shortage of mental health services in MN as well as the recent decision to deny funding for the 60 bed psychiatric facility for youth. As a clinical social worker, one of our values in the code of ethics is “Social Justice. Ethical Principal: Social workers challenge social injustice,” (NASW, 2018). I view the need for increased mental health services within our state and country as a social injustice.
Some of the ways I have advocated for increased need for mental health services includes writing to state and federal legislators and senators. I’ve learned that a call is the best way to advocate and make your voice heard. I also attended Social Work Day at the Capitol and had the opportunity to go directly to Representative Keith Franke’s office and Senator Karla Bigham’s office to leave a letter for each of them encouraging them to vote for and support increased funding for the MN Suicide Crises Hotline that was at risk for losing funding.
Please join in me in advocating for increased funding and support of mental health services in the state of Minnesota.
Mental Health America. 2018. Mental Health in America-Access to Care Data. Retrieved from: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/issues/mental-health-america-access-care-data
NASW 2018. Ethical Principals. Retrieved from: https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
Reilly, Mark. (March 10, 2018). Forest Lake Blocks $20 million psychiatric facility for children. Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2018/04/10/forest-lake-blocks-20-million-psychiatric-center.html
Ruiz, Alexia Elejalde (2018). More People Need Mental Health Care, but Psychiatrists are in Short Supply. Seattle Times. Retrieved from: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/more-people-need-mental-health-care-but-psychiatrists-are-in-short-supply/
Sepic, Matt. (February 27, 2018). Child Psychiatric Supporters Pressure Forest Lake Council, but vote delayed. MPR News. Retrieved from: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/02/27/child-psychicatric-center-supporters-pressure-forest-lake-council-vote-delayed
Sepic, Matt. (April 9, 2018.) Forest Lake City Council Turns Down Zoning to allow psychiatric center. MPR News. Retrieved from: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/04/09/forest-lake-council-turns-down-residential-treatment-center
Werner, Marnie. (May 25, 2017). Mental Health Services in Greater MN. Center for Rural Policy and Development. Retrieved from: https://www.ruralmn.org/mental-health-services-in-greater-minnesota/