Deaf treatment options may expand


Children who are deaf, deaf blind or hard-of-hearing and who need mental health treatment would be allowed to reside in facilities outside of Minnesota borders under a bill passed 131-0 by the House.

To qualify for Medical Assistance funding, the facilities must be located in a state that is a member of the Interstate Compact on Mental Health. Clients would include children who use American Sign Language as their first language.

Currently, children with these special needs don’t have access to 24-hour residential care in Minnesota, resulting in more expensive in-patient placements, according to Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Lake Elmo), the sponsor of HF2253.

An estimated 2-4 Minnesota children annually require the specialized mental health services for people who are deaf, deaf blind or hard-of-hearing.

The bill could save public assistance programs thousands of dollars a day by negotiating less expensive rates at facilities in other states, Lohmer said.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) is the sponsor.