Task force takes aim at delays in mental health care system

A state mental health task force has issued nine recommendations aimed at relieving the bottlenecks that delay Minnesotans from getting care.

The panel, appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton, focused on closing well-known pinch points that make it difficult to get timely mental health treatment or leave people languishing in hospitals and jail cells.

The task force urged a more comprehensive approach to treatment that includes early intervention, home visits from a mobile crisis team, and better insurance coverage for transitional services in the community.

One proposed change would redefine how we think of mental health care by treating it like any other physical illness, said Emily Johnson Piper, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the task force chair.

"Defining a continuum to include prevention and health promotion and early intervention is thinking bigger about mental health than I think we have historically," said Johnson Piper.

The task force recommendations also suggest expanding the mental health workforce and helping people maintain their housing while they recover.

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Private insurers would be subject to more reviews under the plan to make sure they're adhering to mental health parity laws.

Some fixes are short-term and others will likely take years to bear fruit, Johnson Piper said.

The recommendations now go to the governor and Legislature. Here's what they are:

• Creating a comprehensive mental health continuum of care

• Redesigning governance of Minnesota's mental health system

• Using a cultural lens to reduce mental health disparities

• Developing the mental health workforce

• Achieving parity

• Promoting mental health and preventing mental illness

• Achieving housing stability

• Implementing short-term improvements to acute care capacity

• Implementing short-term solutions to improve crisis response

The full report can be found online at on the state's website.