Editorial Roundup: Mental health: State should stop budget cuts

Published 8:50 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A continuing series of in-depth stories by The Free Press on mental health needs and services has shown a troubling shortage of providers and growing needs as the pandemic continues. So a recent plan for the state to cut mental health funding to area providers takes a significant step backward in solving this critical problem.

A story in today’s Free Press shows the cuts of $1.56 million would eliminate up to 20 mental health care providers working with the South Central Community Based Initiative, or SCCBI. The collaborative covers the 10-county area in south-central Minnesota, and the change would reduce its budget nearly 40% for its Adult Mental Health Initiatives program, going from about $4.3 million to about $2.6 million.

The Department of Human Services funding formula will be submitted to the Legislature, and already local legislators are calling for changes to the cuts. That’s good news.

Email newsletter signup

The formula change would provide more money to regional cooperatives like the SCCBI that have possibly be underfunded in the past. But that’s no reason to reduce the budget for the Blue Earth County based initiative, where officials are asking at a minimum that funding be held flat.

Sens. Nick Frentz, DFL- North Mankato, and Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, say they will introduce bills to supplant the lost funding when it becomes effective in 2025. That’s not the best possible solution.

The Mankato-based mental health cooperative has been a model for the state. Some 19 such collaboratives were established in the 1990s, and some of the other groups have been underfunded for one reason or another.

The Mankato-based program has been a leader and helps fund mental health support services like the Second Step Clubhouse mental health support and resource center and the Yellow Ribbon jail diversion program that helps people with mental health problems get services instead of sitting in jail getting worse.

The Free Press series showed mental health needs growing in a number of areas:

• A Kaiser Foundation showed 12% of people had anxiety or depressing in 2019 with that number rising to 40% by January 2021.

• Calls for mental health services have been up 400% at a state crisis and services line, and 600% for youth.

• Some 80% of Minnesota counties are considered mental health provider shortage areas.

This is not the time for budget cuts.

With a state budget surplus of $7.7 billion, mental health services should get increased funding instead of decreased funding. We would urge the Gov. Tim Walz and the Legislature to immediately rectify this situation, either administratively through the Department of Human Services or by making up for the loss in supplemental budgets to pass this year.

Mankato Free Press, Feb. 9

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

email author More by Editorial