In more ways that one, the recent budget settlement is about going back to work. The state government ordered employees to report as normal this morning, and will be bringing back functions and services as able. For the politicians, they now go to the task of explaining, spinning, selling their actions to their constituents. For us? It means trying to fully understand where the impacts of this budget will be felt, and setting the stage for next year.
Because Minnesota borrowed money to patch the budget, it is very unlikely that we have hit bottom in terms of service cuts and reductions. State grants to counties have been cut, something that we tried very hard to avert. Much like in the years leading up to the successful reforms of 2007, we find ourselves with a mental health system with less and less capacity to foster recovery and support people in the community. What will it take to get another victory, and start investing in mental health again?
But there are bright spots, as well as concerns. Counties will still have spending requirements for mental health services (known as maintenance of effort). This has been a major point of contention, and we are very relieved to see this. The efforts to repeal the expansion of Medical Assistance were turned back. And some of the crisis grants that help get people to treatment instead of taxing the 911 system were preserved.
This is a very mixed verdict, and one that will be difficult for many of us. MHAM is more determined than ever to make the case at the capitol for community mental health. We are so grateful for everyone who called, wrote, and pushed their legislators to consider the impacts. We hope you will stick with us over the break (we will update as needed, but less often than in session) as we get ready for another chance to make things better.
For more details, please read our update on the website.