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.