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EDITORIAL: Mental health: Plan for crisis care deserves support
Free Press - 5/15/2022
May 15—A proposal by GOP Sen. Rich Draheim of Madison Lake to help create "urgency rooms" for young people dealing with mental health crises deserves bipartisan support as a first step to tackling the burgeoning problem of mental illness.
The bill (SF 3249) is aimed providing grants to hospitals, health-care providers or nonprofits to develop the urgency rooms as an alternative to housing young people under 25 with mental health problems in hospital emergency rooms. An in-depth Free Press report earlier this year detailed the shortage of mental health-care providers, the long wait times for care and the crisis situations where youth and others must wait sometimes days in an emergency room until a bed opens up.
Draheim said he has been passionate about mental health as his father was a counselor and had a niece who took her own life, according to a report in MinnPost. The urgency room idea came from Senate colleague Jason Isaacson, who heard the story of a constituent whose child had to stay up to 2 days in an emergency room waiting for mental health care.
The proposal aims to eliminate those long emergency room waits. The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate committee 7-1 in April, and Draheim hopes it will pass as a stand-alone bill or part of the larger health and human services bill. Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, is a co-author of the bill.
The bill would require medical providers who get the grants be able to house patients for 72 hours and provide various mental health screenings and evaluations.
Even if this is a small start on addressing the huge mental health crisis facing the state and nation, it deserves legislative approval.
Democrats in the Senate committee wanted to amend it with large proposals to add 1,000 counselors to schools among other major efforts that would have put the bill's cost at $124 million over three years. Those amendments failed in the Senate committee, according to MinnPost.
Draheim says the bill has wide bipartisan support and is urging Democrats to approve it as something that Democrats and Republicans can get done together.
"Hopefully, we can get it through and get some things started, and then we can expand on them in future sessions. It's very bipartisan. There are a lot of things that the governor likes in it. I'm trying to rally the other side of the aisle, that this is something that we can come together on and get done that will help people when we put politics aside and try to do the right thing," Draheim told MinnPost.
The Free Press series on mental health showed that much more needs to be done on mental health issues, from paying higher reimbursement rates to providers, subsidizing more mental health beds and crisis facilities, as well as encouraging more college students to go into the mental health field.
And mental health cases since the onset of the pandemic have only been rising. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that during the pandemic 40% of those polled said they experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression, compared to 10% in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
Draheim's bill will serve a critical need of getting those under 25 suffering from a mental health crisis time to get care. Democrats should be on board to help get this done.
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