Minnesota’s mental health care mess

A new psychiatric facility could improve mental health care in Minnesota.

The state of mental health care in Minnesota is severely lacking. The system is disjointed and confusing, there is a lack of psychiatrists and ill people are not receiving the follow-up care they need. Legislation has been passed to give more funding to revitalizing mental health care, however more inpatient, nonemergency beds need to be to created to help cut the time of emergency room care while providing continued care to those who need it.

Plans to build a new psychiatric hospital in Woodbury are underway in a House committee. The $22 million facility would be privately run and provide long-term care. It would theoretically ease the strain on emergency rooms and psychiatric wards in hospitals, which is desperately needed as the rate of hospital beds decreases as those diagnosed as mentally ill increases.

The Hennepin County Medial Center treats 700-900 mental health patients a month. Beds are continually full, and inpatient care is extremely expensive both for tax payers and families. Patients often stay in the ward because of the lack of specialized inpatient treatment facilities, which clogs the system and racks up enormous bills for the state.

Adding to the problem, shrinking numbers of psychiatrists in the state have meant long waits, sometimes up to three months, to see a specialist. Frustration with the system and the absence of service means that some patients choose to enter the emergency room because it has become the easiest, yet most expensive, method of treatment.

The lack of preventive treatment and follow up examinations have cost millions in these sorts of emergency visits, and the cycle continues as the mentally ill have no where to go after leaving the hospital. Government money has gone to home caregivers who deliver treatments and help find jobs and community support for the mentally ill. These initiatives coupled with the new psychiatric ward will be an imperative in cleaning up the mental health care mess.