State cuts 200 mental health care jobs
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Human Services plans to cut 200 full-time positions from a program that provides direct care for people with mental illness, and will close mental health facilities in Cold Spring, Mankato and Eveleth.
Minnesota Public Radio News reports that the cuts are a portion of the $17 million to be slashed from State Operated Services under Gov. Tim Pawlenty's latest budget recommendations. They must take effect by June 30, 2011.
Dr. Read Sulik, assistant commissioner for Chemical and Mental Health Services at the agency, said most of the 200 positions would be lost through attrition and by eliminating positions waiting to be filled. Agency officials said they were redesigning how they deliver services in hopes that even with the cuts they can avoid an impact on the direct delivery of care.
"We are convinced through this analysis that we are not inhibiting access to care and ultimately will be improving access to care, but we've got to do so in a much more efficient way than we've done so historically," Sulik said.
Some mental health advocates questioned whether such a steep cut could be absorbed without affecting the quality of care.
"They're kind of plugging this as a redesign of the system, but it still is a $17 million cut," said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "I really do find it hard to believe that we're going to be able to cut $17 million and improve and enhance our services at the same time."
The Community Behavioral Health Hospital-Cold Spring, the 10-bed Mankato Crisis Center and the state-operated adult mental health residential facility in Eveleth are marked for permanent closure. Services in Mankato would be transferred to the Community Behavioral Health Hospital in St. Peter, while services in Eveleth would be replaced by a new transitional foster-care facility in northeastern Minnesota.
The cuts announced Tuesday also include the termination of state-operated dental services in favor of a system that works with community providers; and transferring a unit from the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center to the state psychiatric nursing facility in St. Peter.
Abderholden said she supported some aspects of the plan, including a new psychiatric transportation system to deliver people with mental illness to commitment hearings by something other than an ambulance or police car.
Nevertheless, she said the cuts are a cause for concern, particularly as other state budget cuts were pending.
"It has to also be viewed I think in light of everything else that's going on in the budget," she said. "We are worried. It's not like anyone would call the mental health system robust or well-funded."