What Minnesota’s 2023 Legislative Session Meant for Housing, Mental Health and Guild

May 26, 2023

by Julie Bluhm

This has been a wild legislative session! Tracking all the changes has been challenging, and advocates are scrambling to pull everything together for summaries. I am excited to update you with my thoughts and what happened with Guild’s priorities during the session.

I have been a squeaky wheel this last year- from our workforce crisis to increasing our minimum wage without a sustainable solution and all the articles I’ve shared about the consequences of our current systems. While all of this remains true (and I won’t stop naming it), it’s been validating to see our legislative partners not just acknowledge our situation but work together to fund solutions.

I asked for your help earlier this year, and you responded. At the polls, on your doorstep, during town hall meetings, and through emails and phone calls, legislators are hearing about these crises from you. All over the state, they have heard about the need for a more robust mental health system and solutions to our housing crisis.

Your voice and actions matter. Thank you.

This session, Guild and our partners in the Mental Health Legislative Network (MHLN), Ramsey County, and Dakota County identified several opportunities for sustainable solutions that will make a difference- moving us closer to building mental health and homeless response system that will meet the growing demands in our state. My observations:

  1. Our lawmakers care about mental health and housing.
  2. These are bipartisan issues—I testified in several committees, and all the questions and reactions have been positive across the board. They are as eager as we are to find sustainable, concrete solutions.
  3. There is so much work being done this year. It helps to have one party in all three branches. It also helps to be prepared with solutions and actions, which we were.

Funding for Guild Crisis and Recovery Center, West St. Paul

I am most excited to report that $6 million for the new Crisis and Recovery Center in West St. Paul were included in the bonding bill! Thanks to our partnership- and incredible support from- our partners at Dakota County, we will be building a new treatment center in 2024. Once completed, we will move our Guild South program to the new space, where clients will have private rooms and bathrooms, activity space, and a therapeutic environment to stabilize and recover. In addition, we will be co-located with a Dakota County “Place to Go,” a place for people to walk into 24 hours a day for assessment and connection to services. We couldn’t be more grateful for our government partners and the residents of West St. Paul, who invited us into their community.

Historic Investments in Housing

One billion dollars were invested in Housing this session! These funds will support all aspects of our community’s housing continuum of infrastructure, services, and transition support. The highlights:

  1. Significant investment in family homelessness prevention at $95 million. The budget will return to $20.5 million in 2026/27.
  2. $200 million in housing infrastructure bonds to build affordable housing and $15 million to rehabilitate public housing units in disrepair.
  3. Increased funding for landlords, who partner with us and other agencies, to mitigate their risk by creating a pool of funds for them to draw from in the case of property damage resulting from taking the higher barrier folks we serve.
  4. Increased rental subsidies, which subsidize the cost of housing for folks with mental illness and those discharged from treatment programs.

Updates on our other legislative priorities:

  1. Employment support. Guild provides IPS employment services, an evidence-based model that has proven effective in the 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. While there were no changes to our rates- the legislature added $2 million to expand IPS services across the State.
  2. Grants for emerging mental health professionals. This is one of our workforce priorities. Grants will support graduates of mental health programs to get the required supervision to become mental health professionals and for clinicians to access funds to pay for supervision, licensing fees, and exams. We believe this will increase the number of licensed mental health professionals and culturally specific providers (95% of mental health professionals in Minnesota are white).
  3. Rate Increases: You’ve heard me talk about rates A LOT, and while we weren’t as successful in this area as we hoped, we were able to get inflationary adjustments to our Medicaid rates in our Housing Stabilization, IRTS/Crisis and Behavioral Health Home services, which is excellent progress.
  4. Mental health parity. Currently, insurers determine how many providers are in-network based on geography and what they determine to be adequate availability. This expands that definition to create more in-network providers and mandates that insurance companies develop consistent guidelines for specific administrative rules that providers must follow to ensure payment.
  5. Heading Home Ramsey. Ramsey County worked hard through the pandemic to build a homeless response system that works for people. COVID relief funds provided an opportunity to test new interventions, which led to a request this session for $75 million over five years to build and sustain the system. The result is that $11.5 million are committed for this purpose.

Thank you, so much.

You’ve proved that your voice can make an incredible difference.  Call, email, or write a letter thanking your legislators for taking these significant steps to build our mental health and housing systems. Our staff sees the barriers and shortfalls in our systems every day, and it can feel like we don’t have the support of our community. Today, we’re taking some time to celebrate these investments and look to the future.