The state may need to rescue a statewide suicide prevention hotline for the second time.
Operated by Oakdale nonprofit Canvas Health, Crisis Connection is slated to shut down next month for lack of funding. A bill last year that would have given it $1.35 million in permanent funding failed, but the nonprofit reportedly managed to secure a $139,000 grant from the Department of Health in the interim.
As amended, HF501 would appropriate $969,000 in Fiscal Year 2019 for a grant that would likely go to the call center. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kelly Fenton (R-Woodbury) and has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.
Technically, the proposed grant program would be competitive, but the bill specifies that in order to be eligible a nonprofit “must be the current provider of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline services in Minnesota” – that is, Crisis Connection and Canvas Health.
The House Health and Human Services Finance Committee laid the bill over Thursday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF776, is sponsored by Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point). It awaits action by the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.
Canvas Health CEO Matt Eastwood said Crisis Connection’s financial situation had reached a tipping point.
“We can no longer afford to operate this important service without sustainable funding,” he said.
The $969,000 request would fund an 85 percent answer rate to the 52,000 or more calls the center receives per year, Eastwood said.
Gov. Mark Dayton proposes the same amount in his revised supplemental budget for a “competitive grant program” that would increase the number of Minnesota-based organizations providing call center services.
“Right now, Minnesota only has one suicide prevention call center that answers calls when state residents contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline,” a news release from Dayton’s office said. “When that call center reaches capacity, Minnesota calls are routed to other states, which can add an average of three minutes to call response times. About 45 percent of Minnesota calls were routed to other states last year. Increasing the number of state-based providers will increase the number of calls answered in Minnesota.”
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