Editorial - 2013 ‘Year in Review’ for the mental health community

Access Press recently reviewed there last year’s headlines for the disability community. There were also some very important changes to the mental health system that should be noted.

Several major changes were made to psychiatric facilities including a new beautiful psychiatric hospital at Regions and Prairie Care opened a new hospital for children. University of Minnesota Hospital at Riverside opened a remodeled unit for youth, Rising Cedar was opened by Touchstone and South Metro Human Services opened a new intensive residential treatment services facility. A new urgent care facility for adult mental health opened in St Paul. A new rule was implemented moving Minnesota closer toward having true integrated dual diagnosis treatment programs where evidence-based practices are used to treat people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The Make It Ok Campaign was launched by HealthPartners, NAMI and others to raise awareness, reduce stigma and to encourage people to start talking about mental illnesses. Ads and billboards are part of the campaign along with a series of documentaries interviewing people who live with a mental illness.

President Barak Obama came to the Twin Cities to discuss his plans to reduce gun violence and improve the mental health system. NAMI’s executive director was present at the small meeting and spoke to the need for more mental health services targeted at children and youth. Youth Mental Health First Aid, a pro-gram that the president advocated for, began being offered in Minnesota in summer 2013.

A large press conference was held February 1 to present bills that were being introduced to improve the children’s mental health system. By the end of the session major victories were declared as 17 of those 27 provisions were passed. Funding was doubled for school-linked mental health, services were added to the MA benefit set, family peer specialists were created and more. Additional funding was secured for housing and employment for people with mental illnesses. Efforts to link gun violence and mental illnesses were defeated.

An international conference on postpartum depression was held in Minnesota in June bringing experts from across the world to talk about this important issue.

Almost 20 community conversations on mental health took place in October and November around the state. They provided an opportunity for people to learn more about mental illnesses, hear personal stories and identify what steps should be taken to improve the mental health system in their counties.

Last but not least, the final regulations for the Mental Health and Parity Addiction Equity Act were released in November, ending years of waiting since the law passed in 2008. This landmark law and regulation requires insurance plans to provide equal treatment for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

This is an incredible important issue to the mental health community and has been long awaited.

Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI Minnesota. For more information, visit www.namihelps.org

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