This coming Monday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “Choose to Challenge,” a call to action for everyone to challenge gender stereotypes and bias, call out gendered actions or assumptions, and help forge an inclusive world for everyone.
Nearly one year ago, I held a press conference with educators, students, law enforcement, and community members to highlight solutions to tackle the increasing mental health challenges students face. This was one of the last in-person press conferences at the Capitol before the pandemic emerged, and since then, student mental health struggles have only deepened.
One of these solutions would create the position of a school mental health services lead in the Department of Education, and today I presented this legislation to the House Education Policy Committee. The lead would assist school districts in assessing their comprehensive school mental health systems and implementing evidence-based mental health resources, tools, and practices. Minnesota is one of only six states that doesn’t currently have a position like this in its state Department of Education. I’m proud to have the support of NAMI Minnesota, the Coalition for Children with Disabilities, Education Minnesota, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, EdAllies and other advocates in support of the mental health services all students need to succeed and thrive.
Also this week, the House Environment Committee held a hearing on my bill to reform Minnesota’s civil forfeiture laws, and the Public Safety Committee held a hearing on my bill to allow prosecutor-initiated sentencing reviews. I’ll continue working on these important pieces of legislation to deliver equity in our state.
Last Friday Minnesota Management and Budget announced the February Economic Forecast, projecting a $1.6 billion positive budget balance for the next two years. This is good news, and a turnaround from November’s projection of a $1.3 billion deficit, largely due to an improving economic outlook and actions from the federal government.
While our budget projection has improved, the number doesn’t take into account the real struggles too many Minnesotans are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move forward, it’s important to focus on helping our students, workers, families, and small businesses rebound from the challenges they are facing. We must invest in our people and deliver affordable health care, great schools, and economic opportunity for everyone, no matter where we live or what we look like. I’ll work to ensure our state budget reflects these values.
This week the state received more good news on the COVID-19 vaccine front with the arrival of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine. This will greatly aid in Minnesota’s distribution of the vaccine, the pace of which has been trending upward week over week. Already, 56 percent of Minnesotans age 65 or older have received at least one shot, putting us at a good pace to reach our goal of 70 percent by the end of March.
If you haven’t yet done so, sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector to alert you when you’re eligible and connect you with vaccine opportunities. It’s also a good idea to stay in touch with your own health care provider to find out if opportunities become available at your local clinic. There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful we’re nearing the end of this chapter, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. Please continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask around others, and get a test if you feel you need one. We will overcome this crisis together.
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Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.