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Minnesota Legislature Approves $93 Million For Mental Health In Final Hours Of Session

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- The Minnesota Legislature failed to pass several policies promised by the end of session, but lawmakers successfully approved a bipartisan bill to expand access mental health treatment in final hours of their work.

The $93 million funding package includes expanded supports for children and adults and incentives to get more people into mental health fields.

"The whole goal of this bill is to give more access so we do not hear stories from our constituents that they had to drive six or eight hours to find somewhere for their loved one to get treatment," said Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota, praised the bill as a good step forward.

"There was a lot that made it really difficult these past two years so I think the legislature really understood that we had to do something around mental health," she said.

The proposal, which received bipartisan support and now moves to Gov. Tim Walz for his signature, increases funding by $2 million for mental health services in schools and youth shelters, which Abderholden said meet the needs of children much faster and more effectively.

The legislation also creates crisis stabilization beds for children who need urgent treatment, but don't need hospitalization. Abderholden said these crisis homes for children provide a solution that hasn't previously been available in Minnesota.

"That crisis home could be that something right now that will keep the child safe, provide them some treatment and really then stabilize them within 30 days so they can go back home," she said.

There is also a funding boost for mobile crisis services and it creates a process for people found incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness to get treatment and services they need. It designs a new program to ease licensing barriers for mental health professionals by paying for their supervised hours and funds a loan forgiveness program for those who enter the field.

The bill also spends $1 million for an African American mental health center in north Minneapolis offering culturally-informed care and increases funding for adult mental health services.

Other proposals mental health advocates and experts wanted fell by the wayside this year, when the legislature ended Monday with billions in the budget surplus still on the table. The Minnesota House signed off on $475 million in mental health funding in an education bill earlier this year that ultimately didn't secure Senate support.

Those ideas could be revived in a special session, though it's unclear if or when that will happen.

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