Mental health: Gaps in care discussed at legislative roundtable

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By Carolyn Lange, West Central Tribune, Aug 17, 2014, WILLMAR — There are not enough beds, services or money to meet the staggering needs of adults suffering from chronic mental illness and not enough is being done to prevent children from spiraling into a mental health crisis, according to local mental health professionals who met Saturday in Willmar during a legislative roundtable.

The discussion was initiated by Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, and Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, who serves as chairwoman of the House health and Human Services Policy Committee.

“We want to hear about your needs,” said Sawatzky, who also asked the group for ideas about how the state can “move the needle” to ensure that people receive the service they need.

The list of problems with the state’s current mental health program cited by the 25 people in attendance –– who have a long history of providing mental health care services in the community –– was long.

There were reports of people suffering a mental health crisis waiting as long as 48 hours at the Rice Hospital emergency room because there was no room at an appropriate mental health facility anywhere in Minnesota. Some patients have to be transported to a hospital in another state.

“It’s heartbreaking to see someone in a psychiatric crisis and they’re in the emergency room and they have to be transferred to Fargo, N.D., to get care,” said Mary Kjolsing, Director of Behavioral Health at Rice Hospital.

This scenario is not just happening in Willmar, she said. It’s happening all over the state.

“If this was happening in any other area of health care there would be an outcry,” said Kjolsing.

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