Not enough: seeking and providing mental health services as a person of color in the Twin Cities

When Myisha Holley, a mother of three living in St. Paul, went through a divorce, she looked for a therapist that could help her and her daughters work through their trauma. She was clear about what she wanted from a relationship with a mental health professional. “I needed to feel like I could build a relationship with my therapist … like talking to the homegirl, without the judgment,” she said. For her daughters, Holley wanted a therapist who could be a role model while also supporting her while she parented. Continue Reading

Protesters call on Dayton to “veto everything” as legislative proposals have compounding effects on the state’s most marginalized [UPDATED]


Gov. Mark Dayton signed a dozen state budget bills into law on May 30, preventing a state government shutdown and signing off on the Legislature’s $46 billion budget, despite calling many of the Republican lawmakers’ provisions “galling and indefensible” and a “reprehensible sneak attack.”

But just because Dayton signed the bills does not mean he approves all the measures. In an effort to bring state legislators back for yet another special session, Dayton made a line-item veto, effectively defunding the budgets of the state House and Senate themselves. Among the multiple issues Dayton wants to renegotiate – largely taxes – the governor also wants a provision making it even more difficult for undocumented immigrants to receive drivers licenses to be stricken from the Public Safety budget. Continue Reading

OLA: For public safety’s sake, Board of Nursing needs to react quicker

The Board of Nursing has taken too long to suspend nurses when there is a threat to public safety, according to an evaluation report released Thursday by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.The board has made better use of its authority to suspend nurses last year, when seven received suspensions. It will use the findings to support its ongoing work to improve efficiencies, Board President Deborah Haagenson told the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.The auditor examined the board’s complaint resolution process after a series of 2013 media articles criticized nurses returning to practice following suspensions. Project Manager Jo Vos said half of the recommended changes affect the board, while the other changes would take legislative action.Among its in-depth look, Vos said the office looked at four characteristics of board actions: timeliness, fairness, consistency and reasonableness.Timeliness to process cases neededOn average, the board receives nearly 2,000 complaints per year, which amounts to about 1.5 percent of all licensed nurses in the state. Complaints can be categorized as practice related, such as making treatment mistakes, or more serious complaints such as drug or alcohol abuse/addiction.A majority of cases investigated are dismissed; others may include disciplinary action, such as a letter of reprimand in a personnel file; and the board may also opt for revoking a license.In substance abuse cases, a nurse has the option of self-reporting and entering an alternative disciplinary monitoring program called the Health Professionals Services Program.The program enables a nurse to continue practicing at some level during their recovery, with HPSP oversight for up to three years. There are varying reasons why a nurse may not finish the program, in which case HPSP notifies the board that the nurse is noncompliant and their license is suspended. Continue Reading

The Miracle of Two Minneapolises in Prenatal Care

While looking around for some data for another project, I ran into Minneapolis Health Department’s Reports. There’s a lot of great data there, but not all of it is necessarily in amazing condition for people to build off of. One data set, entitled Minneapolis Birth Data, caught my attention. Locked away in mostly tabular PDFs are a lot of interesting numbers that tell you how Minneapolis’ neighborhoods fare by way of birth statistics: with a demographic overview of mothers’ race, age, education, marital status; what trimester they began prenatal care (if at all); how adequate that care was; what their baby’s birth weight was; and whether the birth was premature.After extracting some of the data, I made a map of the report from 2009-2011. In map form, the data is both shocking, and sadly not surprising when you know about the racial and socio-economic demographics of Minneapolis’ neighborhoods. A familiar pattern emerges, where the whitest and richest neighborhoods have a better overall access to prenatal care (West Calhoun, for instance, had 43 kids between the survey period of 2009-2011, and100% are listed as receiving adequate care. Continue Reading

COMMUNITY VOICES | What Will You Exchange in the Health Care Exchange, Minnesota?

The online Health Care Exchange approaches. What will change? Will you exchange your health insurance? Open enrollment for coverage plans is typically in November, and 14 food co-ops in the Twin Cities, 150 Credit Union Co-ops in Minnesota, and over 300 members of Small Business Minnesota are being targeted by a new campaign to switch to a Consumer-Operated and –Oriented Plan for employee health care.The Pro’s:No one can be denied health care coverage for being too fat, too skinny, or sick, per recent federal lawThe Co-Op option being organized in Minneapolis, called A Prairie Health Companion, will be hiring. It’s welcoming new Board members and citizens’ input, as well as new customers and employeesThe Con’s:Small businesses that never offered employees insurance before will soon meet with the complications of this requirement, amid other changes$6 million that would’ve funded start-up loans for health care Co-Ops across the country was cut from the Affordable Care Act when Congress cowered before the fiscal cliff in DecemberThe new Minneapolis-based Co-Op will be a cheap option, but not so cheap that those receiving state-funded health coverage could switch over to it I spoke with someone who’s been educating Minnesotans about co-operative health care pools for years, Joel Albers, Ph.D. of health economics. He said that Medica, Preferred One, Health Partners and the Blue Cross are using deceptive marketing to make people feel like they have power as individuals, using specific people as an emblem for their product.One example is the real, down-to-earth smiling face on Medica billboards and bus signage, next to the title “Medica. Changing the Face of Health Care.”You won’t see CEO David Tilford’s face on these advertisements, because they seem to appeal to Everyman. Continue Reading

Peggy Flanagan’s health care reform question: “Is my mom going to be able to get the care that she needs?”

For 33-year-old Peggy Flanagan, health care policy is “super personal.” About a decade ago, Flanagan’s mom had to go on social security disability because her pain was so bad. With her fibromyalgia, she could no longer perform the tasks that she needed to do for her job. “That was really hard, because my mom really defined herself through her work,” Flanagan said. “That was her identity – someone who got up at the crack of dawn and worked late into the night. Just to not be able to have that has been really hard on her.”Care for people. Continue Reading

Getting connected to raise awareness about mental illness

The September 22 NAMIWalks, Changing Minds One Step at a Time, has a lofty goal: raising the public’s awareness about mental illness and helping to end the stigma surrounding it. These are objectives the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota works on throughout the year, but the annual walk provides an opportunity for people to come together en masse to call attention to the stigma of mental illness, a stigma which prevents far too many individuals from seeking the treatment they need.Working for a better mental health system requires education, support, heightened awareness, and legislative action, all of which the non-partisan, nonprofit does, according to NAMI Minnesota’s executive director, Sue Abderholden. However, political advocacy, which draws from citizens statewide, is at the heart of NAMI’s mission statement. NAMI Minnesota credits grassroots organizing efforts with stopping tens of millions of dollars in cuts to mental health services last year.During a Twin Cities Media Alliance-sponsored Get Connected! community meeting held on September 8, Abderholden emphasized how important it is for individuals to communicate their own personal stories. Sharing those stories with elected officials, she said, is a top priority.Stigma and lack of information deters treatmentLegislators, like the general public, may not realize how pervasive mental illness is. Continue Reading