Looming budget cut pushes services redesign


A looming $5 million budget cut over the next two fiscal years has state-operated mental health services looking at a redesign, but consumers and facility staff members say their voice isn’t being heard in the process.

Dr. Read Sulik, Department of Human Services assistant commissioner, is leading efforts to manage the cut, which came about through the governor’s unallotment. At the same time he is trying to assure consumers that quality of services will not be compromised.

 “We’re trying to figure ways to get more federal dollars moving into the state,” Sulik told the House Health Care and Human Service Policy and Oversight Committee (watch), gathered to hear about the progress of the redesign. Called for in a law effective July 1, the redesign will most likely result in some restructuring of programs and current state-operated facilities.

In recent years, the state’s regional mental health facilities have been closed as programming has been moving to community-based facilities; however the federal government has not completed the steps necessary to see more of them certified for reimbursement, Sulik said. He added that the state could save money by filling a service level gap that may result in fewer long-term hospitalizations.

While supportive of the need for change, testifiers representing health care workers, providers and consumers said they have not been part of the culling of ideas (including roundtable discussions).

“Decisions are being made with little consumer input,” said Sue Hanson, who has a son with schizophrenia and hospitalized in a state institution. On the board of NAMI- Minnesota, (National Alliance of Mental Illness), she said the organization has not been contacted about potential service changes.

“We are being talked about  – our lives and the lives of our loved ones. … Please include us in the decisions,” she said.

Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said that more hearings are expected, especially regarding any changes to services provided by Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Facility.