By Julie Bluhm
Our legislative priorities, year after year, are focused on building our mental health and housing support systems into a full continuum of care that is accessible and sustainable. We want to ensure Minnesotans experiencing mental health concerns and/or homelessness have access to the right resources at the right time.
Earlier this month, I shared a high level overview of Guild’s legislative priorities, and outlined both where we’d be focused during session this year as well as what you can do to help. Since then, all relevant bills have been authored and introduced.
Mental health and homelessness are bipartisan issues. With this year’s historic surplus, we are optimistic we can advance legislation that moves us towards our goal of fully funding our systems. Our Guild teams will be at the capitol this week for Mental Health Day on the Hill and Homeless Day on the Hill—we hope to see you there!
Please read on to learn more about the specific bills that align with our priority areas.
Overview: Increase our ability to respond to our rapidly changing workforce and shortage of mental health professionals.
Relevant Bills: HF1436 and SF1679 would increase loan forgiveness for mental health providers, create a mental health workforce center that would serve as a hub for building a pipeline from high school to work, and provide scholarships to cover some of the costs of licensure, including supervision.
Overview: 80% of Guild’s revenue is reimbursement from public health insurance. The rates are not sustainable, and some of the methodologies for determining rates year-over-year are flawed.
Relevant Bills: HF1683 and SF1615 make key changes to the rate setting process for four of our service areas—ACT, Behavioral Health Home, Residential Treatment and Crisis Residential. The proposed change, allowing us to include “anticipated workforce costs” to our rate setting process, would help us to obtain sustainable rates.
HF346 and SF926 provide a temporary rate increase of 30% to mental health providers who provide outpatient services, allowing them to maintain services while waiting for the Medicaid systems rate changes which is expected in three years.
Overview: We are lacking affordable housing across all income levels, which has led to serious housing insecurity and an ever-growing population of unhoused people in all areas of our state.
Relevant Bills: HF1696 and SF1603 expand a rental assistance program called “Bridges” that supports people who are coming out of residential treatment facilities. Also included is additional funding for a landlord risk fund, which reimburses landlords in cases of property damage.
Pathway Home Act: HF444 and SF388 allocate $150 million from the General Fund in fiscal year 2024 for emergency shelter facilities.
It would also appropriate $77.25 million in the 2024-25 biennium from the General Fund to the Department of Human Services for various homeless services:
- $40 million for emergency services grants;
- $25 million for Homeless Youth Act grants;
- $9 million for transitional housing programs;
- $2 million for Homeless Youth chosen family grants; and
- $1.25 million for a homeless management information system.
Heading Home Ramsey: HF 1686 and SF 2033. $75 million will fund five critical interventions for five years in Ramsey County:
- Continued shelter options for single adults including expanded women’s shelter options. The need for women’s shelter space frequently exceeds supply.
- 100-bed shelter for families and additional support for families. This model, established during the pandemic, has produced significantly improved outcomes for families, moving them into housing more quickly.
- Continued operation of day service shelters, providing support to individuals to help them stabilize, connect with resources, and move off the street.
- A low-barrier pilot program serving frequent users of emergency shelter with intensive, 24/7 staffing.
- Outreach, system improvements, and extreme weather support to help address critical immediate needs and move people onto a path to housing more quickly.
Overview: Guild provides IPS employment services, an evidence-based model that has proven effective in placement and maintenance of jobs. Currently there are few providers of this valuable service as we’ve lacked funds and the rates are not sustainable.
Relevant Bills: HF1697 and SF1779 would create a task force to identify barriers to employment for people with serious mental illness and two years of additional grants to sustain and expand employment services across the state.
Mental Health Parity
Overview: Many years ago, a law was passed that made it mandatory for any health insurer who included mental health benefits in a plan to pay for mental health at the same level and standards as physical health. This is still not enforced.
Relevant Bills: HF1677 and SF1491 revise network adequacy standards. Currently, insurers determine how many providers are in-network based on geography and what they determine to be an adequate number. Research has shown that more people pay for mental health services out-of-network than other specialists. This bill would expand that definition to create more in-network providers, as well as mandate that insurance companies create consistent guidelines for certain administrative rules providers need to follow to ensure payment. The current system is inconsistent, which leads to confusion and creates the need for more administrative support.