by Julie Bluhm, CEO
Year after year, our legislative priorities are focused on building our mental health and housing support systems into a full continuum of care that is accessible and sustainable to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. We want to ensure Minnesotans experiencing mental health concerns and/or homelessness have access to the right resources at the right time. And, we want to make sure we can pay our staff well enough to prevent burnout and retain talent in our critical field.
The Problems at Hand
Currently, our system offers vastly different resources depending on the type of insurance coverage someone has. Some people can qualify for services across the continuum of care, while others can only access short-term outpatient therapy and hospitalization, but nothing in between. Those whose insurance will pay for a much wider set of services, usually Medicaid, can’t always access services because they are over capacity.
Providers like Guild often struggle to increase capacity to meet demand because the payment we receive doesn’t cover the cost of services or, more recently, we don’t have the workforce available to grow our capacity. There are also problems with aging infrastructure and needing funds to pay for capital improvements, as money is usually only given when a service is delivered but not allocated to those long-term, structural investments.
In 2022, we focused on four broad categories to address these problems:
- Increasing the rates we are paid for certain mental health services.
- Investing in our workforce through one-time retention strategies, more substantial loan forgiveness, and providing financial support to new graduates who can’t afford required supervision and often drop out of our field as a result.
- Increasing our ability to provide timely mental health crisis response and support.
- Investing in solutions that will help us make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.
The legislature passed a bill at the end of the 2022 session specific to mental health. But this bill was a stop-gap. Since the larger omnibus bill was not passed, we missed some great opportunities that would have provided more long-term solutions, and that’s where we’ll focus in 2023.
Looking Ahead to 2023
Mental health and affordable housing are bipartisan issues. Specifically, we are interested in long-term rate changes that truly support the cost of the services Guild provides, including paying our staff. We’ve all felt the effects of recent inflation, and we’re asking the legislature to account for inflation in our reimbursement rates.
We also support the creation of a workforce center that will track shortages in mental health staff, organize initiatives to recruit and retain people in our field, and fully fund the response we need to get ahead of our rapidly growing housing challenges.
How Guild is Leading Policy Change
It will take all of us – service providers, government, and the private sector – to develop solutions to achieve service accessibility, getting people the help they need, when and where they need it.
We believe that our sector and our community are better when multiple perspectives are shared. Staff at all levels of the organization sit at tables that influence the identification of opportunities for improvement, developing solutions, and drafting policy changes for the areas in their expertise. At Guild, our staff and clients are experts, based on their lived experience, and can provide a level of detail about what is working well, where there are gaps and unintended consequences of policies, that policy-makers simply don’t have.
We are also storytellers. Our staff and clients often testify at legislative and committee hearings to illustrate the impact of public policy on their lives. Legislators come with their own lived experiences and can’t possibly be experts on every topic that comes in front of them for action. We believe it is our obligation to our community to provide the information needed so decisions can be made thoughtfully and with continuity year over year.
How You Can Help
The best thing you can do is know who represents you in the state and federal legislatures. You can find your representatives here. Relationships with representatives can be built through emails, phone calls, local town hall meetings, and special events.
During our state legislative session, which starts January 3rd, pay special attention to legislative updates. For mental health, NAMI Minnesota provides thorough weekly updates. You can sign up for those here. For housing, Homes for All Coalition does the same. Sign up for their updates here. Twitter – for all of its current upheaval – is also a great place to follow these organizations and other advocacy groups. Stay tuned by following Guild’s social media as well, including my own Linkedin account, for bills we are tracking as the session moves forward.
As always, your financial contributions to Guild help support our work – directly with clients and also as leaders in policy change. Please donate today.