New task force to focus on mental health

Gov. Mark Dayton formed a new task force Wednesday with the job of developing a comprehensive plan for addressing mental illness in Minnesota's health system, prisons and other parts of society.

The Mental Health Task Force, created by executive order, is under orders to deliver recommendations in time for the 2017 legislative session.

The governor's office says more than 275,000 people in the state live with a mental illness and not all of them are receiving proper services.  Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL- Kerrick, who will be part of the panel, said dealing with mental illness requires reducing the stigma around it.

"This is everyone's issue. Mental health respects absolutely no boundaries," Lourey said. "It affects the rich, the poor, you know every corner of our state. It affects our businesses, it affects our schools."

The task force also includes members from the health care sector and criminal justice system, which Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper hopes will break down barriers.

"The benefit of this task force is it brings people together across disciplines and across different areas to the same table to come up with some comprehensive solutions," she said. "It includes law enforcement. It includes the judiciary. It includes people living with mental illness. It includes family members of people with mental illness. It includes the hospital association and our providers that are dealing with this on a daily basis."

Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said inmates in state prisons routinely struggle with mental illness, which can contribute to their crimes.

"Unfortunately the solutions that have been promoted for many, many years for many of our mentally ill citizens has been the introduction of a cage and a key," Roy said. "And I can't imagine a worse solution to mental illness than a cage and a key."

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