2024 Legislative Priorities: Guild’s Battle for Mental Health System Transformation

Jan 26, 2024

Guild’s dedicated staff tirelessly engage in the crucial task of providing essential services to our clients. These services encompass mental health treatment, crisis navigation, and the pursuit of safe, affordable housing solutions. Their expertise lies in navigating complex systems, often safety-net structures designed to aid the most vulnerable members of our community. 

If you were to shadow any of our staff for one day, it’d reveal a stark reality: the very systems intended to help are, in fact, causing harm. The landscape is fraught with hurdles — confusing directions that shift depending on who you speak with, long waits, endless phone calls, and an avalanche of paperwork. Negotiating multiple logins, grappling with suspended accounts, and jumping through compliance hoops. To say it’s a maze is an understatement.  

In our offices right now, our teams are working to find solutions for these issues 

  • The resilient man battling bipolar disorder and a decade of homelessness. Yet, before he could even settle in, is facing eviction- solely due to outdated paperwork and the requirement of mailing rent checks each month. 
  • Ensuring that our clients who speak English as a second language are promised the same understanding of their mental health services with translation support- an out-of-pocket expense not covered by insurance.  
  • In an industry struggling with staff shortages, a capable candidate being turned away, not for lack of competence, but due to their lack of an unnecessary credential. 
  • A client with schizoaffective disorder faced with a Catch-22. Pursuing a full-time job, stability, and a future with their romantic partner, only to have that employment status trigger the loss of their essential mental health services. 

The reality we know, and desperately need to share is this: we fall short of supporting mental illness if we are not trying to change the systems it operates in. It is not enough to support immediate mental health needs; we must champion an entire systems change.      

Each passing year, our legislative focus remains steadfast on transforming our mental health and housing support systems into a comprehensive spectrum of care. Our aim is to make this continuum accessible and sustainable for the most vulnerable individuals in our communities. We envision a scenario where Minnesotans facing mental health challenges or homelessness can access the right resources at the right time. Additionally, we strive to ensure our staff are adequately compensated, both financially and culturally, to prevent burnout and retain talent in this critical field. 

Progress is being made. Over the years, we have made significant strides- expanding care for children, mothers and rural health, and increased funding for community health and housing, but the finish line is still on the horizon. 

As we prepare for the upcoming legislative session in 2024, three key system changes stand out as vital for the welfare of those we serve and the success of our mission: 

2024 Legislative priorities: 

1. Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Policy Issues: 
These proposed changes will help… 

  • Align requirements with current staffing realities while maintaining care quality. 
  • Reduce barriers to expand ACT services to cover more counties in the state. 
  • Enhance transparency regarding Department of Human Services (DHS) certification standards. 

2. Changes to Cost-Based Rate Setting Calculation: 
These proposed changes would… 

  • Enable Guild to cover anticipated staffing and capital costs. 
  • Alleviate cash flow pressures, thereby increasing program support capacity. 
  • Address disincentives in rate systems that hinder full capacity operation and quality care provision. 
  • Facilitate smaller, culturally specific organizations’ ability to offer services. 
  • Mitigate ER pressures on hospitals due to psychiatric bed shortages through increased capacity. 
  • Allow MinnesotaCare coverage of room and board costs.  

3. Housing Support 
In the last legislative session, historic investments in infrastructure and support marked a commendable start. Yet, we must remember that “home” transcends bricks and mortar — our clients require comprehensive support beyond shelter. This funding will…  

  • Bolster services for individuals with Serious Mental Illness, enabling them to live independently in their chosen communities. 
  • Increase funding for HSASMI (Housing with Supports for Adults with Serious Mental Illness) grants by $2 million per year. 
  • Support efforts to increase access to and investments in supportive housing services and to strengthen Housing Stabilization, with a focus on enrollment and payment processes. 
  • Specify in statute that a landlord may not bar, limit, or impose a penalty on a residential tenant for calling for police or emergency assistance in response to mental health or health crises. 

How you Can Help 

  1. Engage with Legislators:

Reach out to your legislators and make your concerns heard. Express the urgency of the matter and advocate for systems changes in mental health and housing.  

  1. Know Your Representatives:

Identify who represents you to ensure your message reaches the right ears. Find your Representatives online here. This simple step ensures that your advocacy efforts are targeted and effective. 

  1. Spread Awareness:

Share this article and the stories and posts of your peers with your network to raise awareness about the pressing issue at hand. Amplify the voices of those actively working on solving this problem. Through collaborative efforts, we can create a groundswell of support that demands attention and action. 

  1. Join us on Capitol Hill

Save the date for the 2024 legislative session and sign up on our email list to receive additional information! 

  • Thursday, March 7… Mental Health Day on the Hill 
  • Wednesday, March 20th… Homeless Day on the Hill