Minnesota receives federal grant to start new mental health clinics

A federal pilot program will consolidate services in certain clinics to simplify receiving care.

Olivia Johnson

First developed under President John F. Kennedy, community mental health clinics are making a comeback in select states under a new federal program.

Minnesota received a federal grant this month along with seven other states to pilot Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, which offer both mental illness and substance abuse disorder services to patients who often have to hop between clinics to receive full treatment.

The program will start by July 1, and six clinics around the state will become “one-stop shops” for adults and children who need care for multiple health issues.

Minnesota Department of Human Services’ assistant commissioner Claire Wilson said the program’s goal is to help patients better navigate the process of receiving care for several health issues. Rather than having to go to multiple locations for treatment, they can be assessed at one location for chemical and mental health needs.

Jill Wiedemann-West, CEO of People Incorporated, a TwinCities nonprofit that serves people with mental illness, said her organization works hard to collaborate and integrate care needs for the community. Its Cedar-Riverside clinic currently services epilepsy patients, but the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics program will allow for those patients to access other services at the same location as well.

Wilson said her administration oversees the services and has worked closely with planning the new clinics.

The project was passed in 2014, Wilson said. Congress allowed all 50 states to apply in 2015 for a planning grant that would fund the preparation of the clinics, though only eight received funding.

“I believe that the federal government recognized that our history of ingenuity and innovation well-prepared us to be one of the demonstration sites,” Wilson said, calling the program the largest investment in community mental health since Kennedy.

Missouri, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and Pennsylvania were the other states awarded the grant.

“One reason why this is a particularly interesting project is because the pilot sites are existing community health centers,” Wilson said. “This is transforming our delivery of care system to allow clinics … to grow on that expertise and provide more coordinated care.”

Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota, said the mental health community in Minnesota is highly collaborative. NAMI worked with the state legislature to apply for the grant and talked with mental health patients to learn how to best develop the clinics.

“When President Kennedy envisioned a new way to provide treatment to people with mental illness … he envisioned community mental health centers that would be one-stop shops,” she said.

Conversations on mental health in the government are common now, said Abderholden, partly because there is less stigma around mental illness and more organization in treating it.

“We do have a good mental health system,” she said of Minnesota. “We are very much a collaborative state.”

Collaboration and organization, she said, will be necessary for the new clinics to work, especially for locations in the metro area.

“When this project came out … we just thought it was a great opportunity to participate in a demonstration project that would take what we were already doing to a much bigger audience,” she said.