Group homes offer assurance to state’s families

Several laws were passed this year that impact children and adults with mental illnesses and their families. One of the most important ones was creating a voluntary certification process for corporate foster care homes, commonly known as group homes. If homes meet the requirements, it will be noted on their license and thus potential residents, their families, counties, hospitals and others will have some assurance that the home will be able to meet the needs of people with mental illnesses.

 To meet the certification requirements the home will have to show that staff in the home have at least seven hours of training on a wide variety of topics related to mental illnesses. In addition, staff must have access to a mental health professional or practitioner for consultation and assistance and each home must have a plan and protocol in place to address a mental health crisis. Each resident’s placement agreement must identify who is providing clinical services and their contact information and each resident must have a crisis prevention and management plan.

Homes that meet the certification will not have to close their beds when someone moves out, and for the next year beds in homes won’t close when the license holder is a mental health center or clinic, or provides ACT, ARMHS, IRTS.

A total of $3.683 million in bonding money was appropriated for pre-design and design of the first phase of a two-phase project to remodel existing facilities and develop new residential programs on the upper campus of the Minnesota Security Hospital in St Peter. It’s a start to making the physical environment safe for its residents. Also in the bonding bill was $5 million for the Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis.

A child under the age three where maltreatment has been confirmed will be referred for screening under Minnesota’s early intervention program (called Part C under IDEA). Knowing that children who experience adverse childhood experiences, such as abuse and neglect, are at risk of developing a mental illness, this provision could help ensure that early intervention services are provided to the child.

School districts will be allowed to use prone restraints with children ages five and older for one more year. Prone restraints are now defined in the law as placing a child in a face down position. The law expands the definition of “physical holding” to specify that it must be “used to effectively gain control of a child in order to protect the child or other person from injury,” and it adds stricter provisions that prohibit schools from using physical holding that restricts or impairs a child’s ability to communicate distress; places pressure or weight on a child’s head, throat, neck, chest, lungs, sternum, diaphragm, back, or abdomen; or results in straddling a child’s torso. School districts must continue to report the use of prone restraints on a form provided by the Department of Education and the department will publish the data on a quarterly basis. Districts will now be required to submit by July 1, 2012 summary data on the use of all restrictive procedures, including the number of incidents, total number of students on which the procedures were used, the number of resulting injuries, and relevant demographic data.

The Department of Education, in collaboration with stakeholders, must develop a statewide plan by February 1, 2013 to reduce school districts’ use of restrictive procedures and report to the legislature on measurable goals for doing so, along with what resources, training, technical assistance, mental health services and collaborative efforts are needed to significantly reduce school districts’ use of prone restraints.

The 10% rate cut to providers serving people who are “low needs” would be changed to 5% if the changes to the nursing facility level of care are approved by the federal government and if they authorize federal participation for the alternative care program.

The Board of Social Work, the Board of Psychology, the Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy and the Board of Marriage and Family Therapy are continued until 2018 and the legislature cannot use the fees collected by the boards for other purposes.

Information about postpartum depression, including symptoms, potential impact on families and treatment resources, will now be made available at WIC program sites.

Sue Abderholden is executive director of NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) Minnesota.

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