ST PAUL, Minn. — No one wants to wait for a hospital bed, especially when it's a crisis, but that's been the reality for Minnesota kids and teens struggling with their mental health.
Now, there's new funding to support them.
While many bills stalled when the legislative session ended this spring, an omnibus mental health package made it to the governor's desk. Tuesday at Children's Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz held a ceremonial signing of that package into law.
"It speaks volumes about Minnesota's priorities," he said alongside legislators, parents, and other advocates.
The $92.7 million package is meant to fund a variety of programs and initiatives, from loan forgiveness for mental health professionals to adding hospital beds. Rep. Peter Fischer (DFL-Maplewood) of District 43A touted the package's bipartisan support.
"[It] passed out of our division with 100 percent support of Democrats and Republicans because we realized that we have a crisis in our state," Fischer said.
Mark Gorelick, president and CEO of Children's Minnesota, says the package is allowing the hospital's St. Paul campus to build a new mental health unit and obtain licensing for 22 psychiatric beds. With construction already started and an opening set for fall, Gorelick says it will be the first mental health unit in the east metro serving kids under 12 years old.
"We expect that this unit is going to serve about 1,000 kids and teens each year," Gorelick said.
The mental health package could also mean more mental health professionals.
"[Children's has] already started the hiring process," Gov. Walz said. "This will be about 60 jobs."
"One of the largest issues is we don't have enough people to do the work," added Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota. "We have many people who graduated but don't become licensed … This bill creates a grant program to address this barrier."
It's not just for youth. The package also puts tens of millions of dollars toward adult mental health initiatives including the expansion of mobile crisis units.
A spokesperson for House Majority Leader and Hennepin County Attorney candidate Ryan Winkler said Winkler "was a major player in getting the bill to the Governor" and sent a statement:
"Mental health affects everything we do, and the decline of it can be seen throughout our communities. It was important to us that we put together a package in the final hours of the legislative session that could benefit as many Minnesotans as possible. As County Attorney, I will continue to be a strong advocate for better mental health programming and resources in Hennepin County."
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