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New mental health facility proposed

Published (3/7/2008)
By Patty Ostberg
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The House Mental Health Division approved a bill Feb. 29 that would provide an exception to the hospital construction moratorium, allowing a 144-bed specialty psychiatric hospital to be built in Woodbury. The bill now goes to the House Health and Human Services Committee. There is no Senate companion.

Health care plans continually expand and provide high-margin services, but neglect those that bring in fewer dollars like mental health, said Rep. Marsha Swails (DFL-Woodbury), the sponsor of HF3539. She said more beds are needed in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Clayton, who withheld his last name during committee testimony, said he spent 11 hours recently in a Fairview-affiliated emergency room with his wife, only to return home after she didn’t receive needed care for a psychiatric episode. He said it took nearly all day for her to be admitted to the correct unit, and then there were insufficient numbers of staff to attend to patients, including his wife. They left when he realized they weren’t going to get care.

“I know this is not right. People should be able to get help when they need it,” he said.

Although his story is similar to what many legislators have been hearing from constituents, adding beds doesn’t solve the problem, said Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato).

Sara Criger, CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, said what’s needed is services like community housing, residential treatment areas, and crisis and support services that sustain those released from the mental facilities.

Julie Sonier, Department of Health director of the health economics program testified that the new facility would not be in the public’s best interest, and that it might not translate into better access or services.

Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorhead) said the providers are overly concerned, and the new facility can peacefully coexist in the current system.

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