Category Archives: Issues Advocacy

The Minnesota Olmstead Planning Committee Wants to Hear from You!

When it comes to services for people with disabilities, how well do you think current public policies and practices in Minnesota meet your needs? What’s working for you? What isn’t? These are all questions the Minnesota Olmstead Committee would like to ask.

By October 2012, this committee must develop goals, recommendations, and a timeline that will become Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan. This Plan will be submitted to the State of Minnesota through the Minnesota Department of Human Services. The Minnesota Department of Human Services will begin to implement recommended changes in 2013.

You can help shape this plan by going to the Minnesota Olmstead Planning Committee’s website. The committee wants to hear from individuals living with disabilities, their families, service providers, and concerned community members.

The site is still being developed, but check back often for more information about the Olmstead Decision and ways that you can be a part of the conversation.

Hennepin County Mental Health Advisory Council (HCMHAC) 101

by Kim Lutes, MHAM volunteer

The Hennepin County Mental Health Advisory Council will meet on Thursday, March 15, 2012, at the Hosmer Library on 36th and 3rd avenue. This Thursday’s meeting is a special one because it is the first meeting of our 2012-2013 session. The council will welcome newly appointed members.  The formal meeting begins at 2:00, but members are encouraged to arrive at 1:30 for a brief gathering in honor of the new members. Since Thursday’s meeting marks the beginning of the 2012-2013 session, much of our time will focus on orienting our new members to the council– sort of like “Advisory Council 101”.  We hope this will also be a helpful review for returning council members.  In addition, Commissioner Jan Callison is scheduled to address the council. I look forward to a full meeting and a productive year.  Stay tuned for monthly updates on this blog.

Update for 1/19/12

I had a great trip yesterday to see the folks in Le Center for their LAC meeting. I’m headed back that way today for the LAC meeting in St. Peter. There’s lots to talk about with the upcoming session, but primarily, I enjoy getting a better picture of what people are doing around the state for their own recovery.

One member yesterday talked about how she had educated a physician on resources in the community, including the Resource Center where we met. I think that’s just such a testimony to the capability we all have to make improvements to the system, and why it’s so vital that the person stay at the center of all we do. And the refrain is common: the connections and networks of caring that are formed at resource centers, drop-ins, and community groups are a big factor for people. Breaking isolation and finding a place to belong is something we all strive for, and despite all the budget cuts we have faced, I am heartened to see how much effort is put into keeping those places alive.

Day on the Hill Bus Routes

We have a few more routes from last week, so please check and see if there is one near your community. If you are driving, please consider offering space to others in the community who could use some help getting there.

All buses are expected to arrive at Christ Lutheran Church by 9:45 am and will depart St. Paul around 3:00 pm.  Registration is required since space is limited.

The routes are:

  • Baxter/Little Falls/St. Cloud (Matt Burdick at 651-645-2948 x107)
  • Duluth/Cloquet/Pine City/North Branch/Wyoming (Matt Burdick at 651-645-2948 x107)
  • Winona/Rochester (Matt Burdick at 651-645-2948 x107)
  • Kerkhoven/Willmar/Atwater/Litchfield/Cokato.  Contact Teresa Emmen at (320) 894-7336
  • Marshall/Redwood Falls/Fairfax/Gaylord.  Contact Teri Herder-Blahnik at 877-537-0831 for this route.  A 1$ donation is requested for this bus.
  • Moorhead/Fergus Falls/Alexandria. Contact Maureen King at 218-385-3689.

If you can’t make it, please consider sending a mental health valentine to arrive that day. Our friends at NAMI spent some time coming up with some very witty ones to hand out, so we’d love to hear your contributions as well.  You have all felt some impact from the budget cuts already: let them know what it has meant for you and ask what they plan to do.

Rep. Greiling Set to Retire

Rep. Mindy Greiling has just announced that she will not seek re-election.  She has been an amazing advocate for Minnesotans with mental illnesses at the Capitol and will be sorely missed. She has served her district and state since 1993, and we recognized her many contributions with the Gloria Segal Award in 2009.

She has been a critical part of the push to make community mental health a priority and was the chief author of the 2007 mental health funding/reform bill.  This legislation set the high water mark of our state’s commitment to mental health care, and promised progress towards more care in the community and support for meaningful recovery.

We hear that she plans to stay involved with the mental health community, and I’m grateful that her voice will still be on our side.  Please consider sending a note of thanks to her office, and let her know how much her advocacy is appreciated.  Her contact information can be found here.

SOS Redesign

Last week, the Mental Health Legislative Network heard from Assistant Commissioner Maureen O’Connell on a variety of issues, including SOS redesign.  She stressed her continued involvement in and attention to the SOS system, including St. Peter.  The group sincerely thanked her for her candor and efforts to reach out to advocates, even if we still have some concerns about the redesign process.

“Redesign” has been a recurring headline, and I am anxious to see more details about how DHS proposes to change SOS.  Bottlenecks at intake and discharge are still major issues, and we need to make sure the resources dedicated to the CBHH facilities are being wisely used.  The state needs to ensure access to regional options for clients who require secure hospitalization, but that does not necessarily mean that the state must directly provide those beds.  I am encouraged by their solicitation of feedback from regional stakeholders, and hope we will have better answers this time around.

Hospitals Report Community Contributions

The MN Hospital Association has put out their data on community contributions they have made in the past year.  These numbers will likely see hot debate, as the squeeze on the health care system continues.  Including under-compensated care, notably the difference between the payment given by MA and the cost of the treatment, the hospitals recorded $2.28 Billion in contributions to the community.

More reliance on emergency care and uncompensated care is certainly an expensive way to deliver health care, but it does not appear to be directly affecting the health of the hospitals.  With hospitals in the Twin Cities seeing record profits, it appears that they have found ways to pass those costs on.  It is ultimately the public that pays, in longer wait times and higher insurance/medical costs.  Lawrence Massa, CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, is quoted as saying that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and payment for outcome, not procedure, will continue to change this equation.

As a state, we will need to decide whether ACOs and the like will simply be tools of cost containment, or if they will be leverage to get better health care to more people. Perhaps part of the question ought to be about what a health care outcome is, and if our needs will be reflected in this new math.  It might be easy to see if a diabetic patient has had better control over their blood sugar, but we will need to make the idea of recovery more visible so our outcomes can be counted too.

“This is Important!”

All session long, we’ve been talking about connecting with your legislators and telling them what matters to Minnesotans with mental illnesses.  We always need to try to stay visible when so many different things are competing for their attention.  But the “off season” is a great time to connect and really lay the groundwork that helps them understand why mental health matters.

This fall and winter, the Mental Health Legislative Network will be hosting or facilitating meetings where we can tell our stories, explain what really helps, and why service cuts have been so devastating.

To be connected with a town hall or house meeting in your area, contact us.  If there isn’t one scheduled, maybe you’d think about helping us get one started?  We have materials and support; but we need a constituent to call up their legislators to say, “This is important, and I think you should come hear more about it!”

To find out more, visit our legislative update this week.

What A Deal

As Minnesota continues to digest just what the budget deal will mean for us, we have gotten a few new pieces of news.

Moody’s has downgraded the state, stating that our reliance on one time cuts and borrowing meant that investors should be more worried about our ability to repay bonds.

American Crystal Sugar has locked out workers over increased health care costs.

Austin, MN has just released their property tax levy: they will have to seek 15% more than last year.

We were all told by legislative leaders this year that if we could avoid increases to income and state taxes, that job creators would be freed up to increase prosperity.  But it just seems so clear to us that not only is a lack of new revenue hurting people around the state who have lost services, it isn’t even preventing tax hikes or job losses.

As Moody’s told us, we face a structural deficit.  We can cut spending such as LGA or the grants to counties that fund mental health services.  But those choices have costs.  In good times, we lowered taxes instead of saving for a rainy day.  Now, the bank is empty, and we face difficult choices.  But we think that it is increasingly apparent: we can’t cut our way out of this mess.

As always, please see our website for full details, or to sign up to get our updates via email.

Talking Back

The legislature has spoken for this biennium: setting the priorities and policies that will shape mental health services in our state.  So now is a good time to think about talking back.  What would you say?  What do these cuts mean for you?

This week’s update has more details on the budget as well as information on a couple of community events designed to connect you with your legislators.  Hopefully, there will be more announced soon.  Are you interested?  Let us know, and then have your say!

Back to Work

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.

Heat Alert! (And Budget Settlement?)

More heat is on the way for Minnesota.  Please take care of yourself, and check in with folks who may be sensitive to heat.  For more information, please check out our entry from earlier this summer.  Keep drinking water, maybe check out a library or other public build that has AC, and stay safe.

In other news, we may have a budget and an end to the shutdown in sight.  You can find our more on our legislative update page.

Who Feels the Impact?

Are you feeling the impact of the state government shutdown yet?  If you care about accessible mental health service, the chances are you have.  Not not everyone is equally affected.

As the shutdown drags on, however, the number of people impacted is going to expand greatly. Construction projects are stalled, some restaurants can’t restock because their liquor license has expired.  Racetracks and state parks are closed.  Resorts are losing business, because fishing permits are on hold.  Lottery tickets can’t be purchased in MN.

While the ability to enjoy many of these recreational opportunities will not be “critical” as defined by Judge Gearin’s rulings, they are the kinds of things lots of folks notice.  We hope that people will take their frustration about these things and join the chorus: find a budget compromise, as free as possible from divisive policy issues, and get the state back to work.

We all play a role in creating the voice of the people.  Not everyone uses every service the state provides.  You might notice a different impact of the shutdown than what others do.  So speak out, and make sure your priorities are heard.  We need to make sure that we are reminding our elected officials that we expect the state to continue to fund programs and services that help make recovery a possibility for all Minnesotans with mental illnesses.

For more detail, please see our weekly update.

No Closer to a Budget

It strongly appears that we are no closer to an approved budget, despite getting one week closer to the final deadline before a government shutdown. This week’s update has more details on what some of the court filings have been and the issues that remain.

We are encouraging anyone who can to join us on Tuesday evening for a candlelit vigil on the steps of the State Capitol Building.  We’ll be there with other groups in the Mental Health Legislative Network, reminding policymakers of the impact of both the cuts that are proposed as well as the interruption of a shutdown.  For more information, you can check out the event here.

This morning, Judge Kathleen Gearin made initial rulings on some of the petitions before the courts.  She dismissed arguments from both sides, refusing to appoint a mediator as Dayton had asked, but also declining to order a special session of the legislature.  She pointedly reminded both sides of their ability to solve these issues and spoke of her concern of the potential impact of a shutdown.