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Brighter future for addressing mental health

Nina Arneson

By Nina Arneson, Goodhue County Health and Human Services director

In 2018 the Minnesota Legislature approved $28.1 million in bond funds to the Department of Human Services to establish new regional mental health centers. This is something Goodhue County along with other Minnesota counties has seen as a great need and all 87 counties supported building and improving mental health services and availability around the state.

In Goodhue County, this included the Goodhue County Health and Human Services Board supporting a resolution for the support for this bond funding - .

Soon DHS will be issuing a request for proposal for these regional projects. Under the requirements established by the Legislature, applicants will be required to demonstrate a need for the proposed project, the capacity to sustain the program, and willingness to build on and integrate with the existing service continuum in the area they intend to serve.

Regional Crest Initiative

The great news here is that this opportunity aligns well with the work being done with the Regional CREST Initiative --- Dodge, Steele, Waseca, Olmsted, Goodhue, Wabasha, Fillmore, Winona, Mower, and Houston counties. The CREST Initiative is focused on addressing the gaps in our current mental health system, specifically around creating more access to services. These efforts include serving the uninsured and underinsured individuals with a continuum of mental health services including crisis services, acute outpatient services, and care coordination.

Our region is currently seeing approximately 35 percent of users not eligible for Medical Assistance, without any insurance or having insurance plans that do not cover mental health crisis services.

This work is being done together with regional health partners including Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center, and Manage Care Health Plans.

The vision for the region has been to develop a mental health crisis center, changing and greatly improving how people in southeastern Minnesota would access mental health services in crisis. This would allow direct access to mental health professionals, and practitioners immediately in the recovery process. The mental health crisis center would become the "front door" to the emergency department diverting mental health patients to community recovery services early in the recovery process.

The desired outcome of this type of model is a more efficient utilization of inpatient beds, a decrease in psychiatric boarding and general support for mental health patients. This model also adds support to existing patients receiving outpatient services by allowing after hour and weekend care options.

Regional and local partnerships

Additionally, the "no wrong door" philosophy and the mental health crisis center "front door" would offer a continuum of services to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis and seeking help. This is inclusive of individuals of all ages, those living with mental illness, co-occurring disorders, substance use disorders, and cognitive challenges. Regional and local partnerships between our local medical providers and mental health service providers would allow the appropriate level of care to be provided in a timely way to those in need of acute services. T

his new model is looking to more efficiently utilize our community strengths and resources to improve the quality of mental health care in our region and reach more individuals and ultimately, improve the health of individuals, families and communities. These regional and local partnerships across our ten CREST Counties—Dodge, Steele, Waseca, Goodhue, Wabasha, Winona, Fillmore, Olmsted, Mower, and Houston—will allow for support to continue through currently existing health and human services, regional mental health mobile crisis teams, and other mental health service providers. By facilitating a recovery oriented philosophy, the mental health crisis center would act as a resource hub to provide early connection to those services.

The bottom line is that some great work has been taking place that has allowed us to be regionally well positioned for the upcoming request for proposals and this provides a much needed opportunity for our region to improve and enhance the current mental health services infrastructure as the concept visualizes the new regional mental health crisis center function as

• Becomes the "front door" to the emergency departments for behavioral health needs—non-institutional setting with a recovery oriented, person-centered focus

• Enhances our current mental health mobile crisis response teams allowing for greater access to crisis services.

• Stronger connection with regional county resources/partners resulting in more successful transitions back to community.

• Offers a bridge to mental health services for those that experience gaps in service or are on waitlists.

• Increases the speed of access to other services.

We hope to have the opportunity to bring this improved mental health crisis model to southeastern Minnesota. If you would like more information about the work being done, please contact Tim Hunter, CREST programs coordinator at 507-328-6645 or