Dear County Commissioner:
As you look ahead to a new year, NAMI Ramsey County (National Alliance on Mental Illness) hopes you are preparing to meet the needs of people with mental illnesses and their families.
As you know, the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic are increasing both the number and severity of mental illnesses for people in Ramsey County, and the M-Health Fairview system is closing the St. Joseph’s emergency room and is likely to close the entire hospital at the end of 2021. This will be a 16% decrease in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds in the metro area. It is crucial for Ramsey County to consider all options to reduce the strain on scarce inpatient psychiatric beds.
Toward that end, we urge you to support a promising new law to intervene early and prevent hospitalizations for people with mental illnesses called Services for Engagement in Treatment. NAMI Minnesota joined with other key stakeholders-–including the Association of Minnesota Counties–-to pass this comprehensive update of Minnesota’s civil commitment law, including adding this new option.
Services for Engagement in Treatment is voluntary for counties. Each county must opt-in to offer this intervention. We urge you to adopt this new service and prevent the unnecessary hospitalization, incarceration, or commitment of people with serious mental illnesses. This new intervention is designed to voluntarily engage a person in treatment early in the process, when someone is either exhibiting the symptoms of a serious mental illness for the first time or exhibiting the patterns or behaviors that have previously led to hospitalization, incarceration, or a civil commitment.
We could give you many examples in Ramsey County where family members are told that they must watch their child or loved one decompensate until they meet the criteria for a civil commitment.
Services for Engagement in Treatment is a new law to break this cycle.
If Ramsey County opts in, families and others could contact pre-petition screening at the county and ask for help. Engagement services include assertive attempts to engage the individual in mental health treatment, engaging the person’s support network (family) including educating them on available services and suicide prevention, and meeting the person’s immediate needs for food, housing, medication, income, disability verification and treatment for medical conditions. Engagement services must consider a person’s personal preferences and can last for up to 90 days. Engagement services must be person-centered and can be provided to people who are in jail. Services end if the person meets the criteria for civil commitment or if the person agrees to voluntary treatment.
The needs of the mental health community are increasing while the number of hospital beds is decreasing. We urge Ramsey County to do whatever it can to divert people from hospitalization. High on that list is offering Services for Engagement in Treatment to better serve people with mental illnesses. Thank you for your time and consideration. Our board would be happy to answer your questions.
Mindy Greiling, President
Board of Directors NAMI Ramsey County
Author: NAMI Ramsey county board
With guidance from NAMI Minnesota