Senator Dave Senjem feels the time has come for the lawmakers to take some bold steps for patients suffering from mental health and is pushing the state to make investments worth $110 million into housing and other supportive services for them.
Having himself witnessed mental illness closely, Senjem’s push for the investment is a personal one too. Once ashamed to talk about his family’s mental history and his father’s suicide, the Republican leader has now opened up about it and wants to make a difference in the lives of other individuals who might be going through the same by using his legislative position.
Senjem is in the process of finalizing a legislation which he’s planning to introduce at the Capitol soon. While one of the proposals would be championing permanent supportive housing worth $75 million for patients with mental health disorders, another proposal would be to seek funding worth $25 million for building mental health centers across the state of Minnesota, including in Rochester city. Apart from these $100 million investments, he also plans to call for another $10 million ongoing funding for operational costs incurred towards running these supportive housing centers.
Southeast Minnesota needs supportive housing
While several community groups are working towards identifying the gaps in the current mental health care system in Minnesota, one which is evident is the lack of stable and supportive housing options for patients with mental illness.
The patients, after receiving the inpatient treatment and being stabilized find they have nowhere to go and thus end up staying longer at the inpatient facilities which costs the taxpayers a whopping $744 per day per individual. Releasing the patients without any proper housing support means they struggle and eventually end up where they started rendering the entire treatment ineffective. The $10 million would help in funding a 40-unit apartment that would serve the residents in Southeast Minnesota.
Another evident gap in the present mental health care system is the lack of facility for people undergoing a mental health crisis. Patients generally have two options – either go to the emergency room (ER) or end up in jail. The atmosphere in the ER is certainly not conducive for treating or stabilizing someone in mental distress and yet sometimes the patients have to wait for days in the ER for a bed to open up in a state-run facility.
With the establishment of triage centers, the mentally ill patients would have a place to be assessed at by mental health practitioners and also have access to stabilization beds. Such triage centers would provide a calm atmosphere for the patients to stabilize and get back to normal.
There is also a debate going on about whether investing in triage centers is the best option for the state. The executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota feels it would be a better option to use this investment amount towards improving the ER of existing hospitals so that the psychiatric patients can get better care including lighting and better mental health staff. But this issue has to be looked at from the patient’s point of view, too. Patients would rather recuperate in a house with a good environment than be cooped up alone in the ER room till the doctors feel they are ready to leave or stable enough to be shifted to a state facility.
Help is at hand
What’s important right now is for the policymakers to come together and think about the betterment of patients suffering from mental illness than about their own agendas. Only then can there be some improvement in mental health care facilities across the nation.
If you or your loved one is struggling with any form of mental illness, you can contact Sovereign Health to access our mental health programs in California. For more information on our mental health centers in California call our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with mental health experts.