The state's prodding in favor of community-based mental health services continues but no arbitrary date exists when state facilities that treat mental health problems must be closed, Department of Human Services Commissioner Kevin Goodno said Wednesday in Brainerd.
Meeting with county social services directors and mental health professionals in the Crow Wing County Services Building, Goodno asked the outstate officials to devise their best plan to serve those who use state mental health services and then work with the DHS to overcome barriers that might stand in the way of that service.
"Be creative on how you want the system set up," he said. "The focus is on providing the best services for the client."
Minnesota's $4 billion revenue shortfall "forced us to look at how we provide services," the attorney and former lawmaker said.
Last spring the year 2007 was identified by DHS officials as a target date when the providers of community-based services for the mentally ill might be able to meet the needs of the state's mentally ill and expedite the closing of former state hospitals such as the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
The BRHSC, which opened in 1958, employs 426 people. It serves people who are mentally ill, as well as those who are chemically dependent, elderly or who have traumatic brain injuries. Other programs based in the human services center include a Crow Wing County-owned juvenile detention center, a detox center and an outpatient clinic leased by the Veterans Administration.
In 2002, the DHS saw the last state clients with developmental disabilities leave regional treatment centers for smaller homes in various communities. Those patients numbered as high as 6,000 statewide in 1965.
Goodno said, in comments after the meeting, that the push toward community-based mental health services would result in people receiving treatment closer to their homes as opposed to being located in a larger, centralized facility.
The DHS commissioner, who represented Moorhead in the state House for 12 years, was chair of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee for four years before Pawlenty appointed him to his current post.
Sue Beck, Crow Wing County's human services director, said counties have been fairly aggressive about moving services into the communities but related cash flow demands were creating a "real drain," particularly for counties such as Todd County, which serves as a fiscal host for regional mental health programs.
Other outstate mental health service providers complained of mixed messages from the DHS and over-regulation.
"If there is unnecessary regulation ... we need to be aware of that," Goodno said.
Wednesday's meeting included health professionals and county social services officials from Crow Wing, Todd, Hubbard, Cass, Wadena, Morrison, Aitkin and Beltrami counties.
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