Rethink plan to exit mental health ‘demo’

Opinion editor’s note: Editor represents the views of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently of the newsroom.


Although four members of Gov. Tim Walz’s cabinet have said they will not seek reappointment, one high commissioner remains in the running for governor.

Jodi Harpstead leads the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). It is a tough job and responsibilities that involve managing the health and welfare programs of the government and the proper care and treatment system.

Harpstead stepped in to lead the agency in August 2019 after leadership turnover and allegations of misconduct rocked the agency. He worked hard to strengthen financial controls and improve broken legal relationships.

Such meaningful problem-solving is also needed to address the conflict between DHS and the state’s mental health community. The reason: a corporate decision to exit a federal program that favors the next generation care model.

Although an interview this week with DHS said the agency was unwilling to reconsider, the Editorial Board urged the agency to do so. Harpstead and his department’s behavioral health lieutenants must immediately sit down with mental health advocates who argue the agency’s decision is wrong and is leaving millions in federal funding on the table. , and its cause is unclear.

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The new federal program at the heart of the controversy is known as the “Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) National Demonstration.”

Requirements as a CCBHC include: Emergency services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, CCBHCs must provide “multiple services so that people who need care are not stuck trying to coordinate the behavioral health support they need across multiple providers,” e. according to government officials.

To do this, CCBHCs must offer core services that include crisis intervention, screening and risk assessment, treatment planning, mental health and substance abuse services, structured case management and health care. psycho-social for veterans. Also on this list are mental health services and “friend, family support and counselling” services.

If it seems like a lot, it is. But that’s the beauty of the CCBHC approach. It’s a one-stop shop, helping people access care sooner and better navigate the smart care system. This is important to help people in crisis and ensure that care is maintained.

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US Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, is a CCBHC trustee. His office says “Statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services show that people who received services at these clinics had 63.2% fewer emergency department visits; spent 60.3% less time in prisons; and saw a 40.7% decrease in homelessness.”

There are more than 450 CCBHCs across the country. Minnesota, which was one of the program’s early adopters, currently has 13 CCBHCs, along with eight other federal agencies coming online, giving the state a 21 total “over the next four years,” according to mental health advocates.

As its name suggests, the program and assistance in implementing the CCBHC model is not meant to be permanent. However, many extensions have been passed by legislatures. In 2022, Congress expanded the program and extended funding through fall 2025.

The DHS’s decision to leave last month will come down to whether the government needs to “integrate” the program and transfer federal support, given the current state’s large surpluses. to pay for lost government dollars. Mental health advocates who oppose this decision say the state could lose up to $30 million in additional annual federal funding.

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DHS’s decision may have been made before Congress renewed its CCBHC mandate, raising questions about when it would be appropriate to “graduate.” Some concerns arise from leadership concerns in DHS’s behavioral health division.

Supporters opposing the DHS decision include some of the state’s most respected mental health organizations – the National Alliance on Mental Illness head, the Minnesota Association of Community Health Programs and prominent providers.

“By choosing to withdraw Minnesota from the Demo, the nation’s reputation will suffer, from one of the pioneer states in changing mental health care in the US to falling behind during the struggle and the rest of the country to join the Demo,” a link. said the story.

The disconnect between DHS and these critical voices is alarming and needs healing. Harpstead is an experienced commissioner and should see this as a way for his team to navigate differences and build consensus.


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