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Reader Opinion: Mental health a priority

With an estimated 220,000 Minnesotans living with serious mental illness, there is no doubt our state is facing a mental health crisis. Hospitals are experiencing a severe shortage of inpatient psychiatric beds and lack of access to treatment is only exacerbating the problem for those that desperately need help.

Addressing the mental health crisis has been — and will continue to be — a priority of the Republican Legislature.

During the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature passed a bonding bill that brought needed funds to mental health facilities across the state, including $70.25 million for Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, $7.53 million for Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services in Willmar, $2.25 million for Anoka Metro Regional Treatment center, $1.25 million for Carver County Regional Residential Crisis Stabilization Clinic, $1.6 million for The Family Partnership in Minneapolis, $2.2 million for the Minneapolis People's Center, and $12 million for St. Paul's Dorothy Day Opportunity Center.

This session, we also created a Mental Health Innovation Grant Program that is designed to improve the accessibility and quality of community-based, outpatient mental health services. We redesigned the intensive outpatient mental health services available for children. Finally, the legislature made grant funding available for school districts to assist in serving students with challenging mental illnesses.

But the work does not stop there.

In the upcoming legislative session, I'm committed to working together with health care providers, law enforcement and community leaders to find innovative, policy-based solutions that will ease the burden on those seeking help as well as the health care providers.

Making sure the most vulnerable Minnesotans have access to needed mental health services, while making sure Minnesota's health care professionals are equipped to provide adequate care, is something on which we can all agree.

Senator Paul Gazelka

Minnesota Senate Leader