Carla Nelson: A blueprint to improve mental health support in rural Minnesota

We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, especially for students and children, that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

State Sen Carla Nelson.jpg
Sen. Carla Nelson
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As you know, I am incredibly passionate about improving the state’s delivery of mental health services. One of the most pressing issues facing our state right now — particularly for those of us who live outside of the metro area — is the increasing prevalence of unmet mental health needs. We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, especially for students and children, that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Mental health supports have been one of my biggest priorities during my time as a legislator, and I am pleased that so many individuals are taking on this challenge. One of these groups is the Rural Health Advisory Committee, which created a mental health workgroup specifically to address mental health needs. The group conducted a number of listening sessions and made several important recommendations that will help ensure that every Minnesotan can connect with needed mental health care.

The advisory committee recommendations will help us raise awareness of the mental health crisis and available resources, improve Minnesotan’s access to critical services and supports, strengthen the mental health care system for rural communities, and encourage collaboration between key stakeholders.

You can read the report for more information. I strongly support the group’s recommendations.

We made several other key advancements this session to improve the speed and effectiveness with which Minnesota provides support to Minnesotans working to improve their mental health.


This year’s final health and human services bill contained important funding that will help us accomplish this goal:

  • We permanently expanded Telehealth access to include mental health and substance use disorders. I have long been an author of Telehealth legislation, beginning with the very first telehealth bill, and we will continue to pursue advancements so every Minnesotan has affordable access to the health services they need, when and where they need them.
  • We provided funding to prioritize the mental and behavioral health needs of Minnesota youth, and established individual treatment plans for children in outpatient services. This was part of the YOUTH Act that I authored this year to help Minnesota better support children in crisis.
  • We provided additional funding in this year’s jobs and economic growth bill to expand broadband access in underserved and unserved communities to help close gaps in access to important services like telehealth.

This year also marked the opening of the new Southeast Regional Crisis Center in Rochester, aimed specifically at providing more rapid responses to mental health issues. This crisis center is one of six new facilities that the legislature funded in 2018. For more information, visit or call 1-844-274-7472.

There is more work to do, but the policies we have approved in recent years at the legislature and the important recommendations from the Rural Health Advisory Committee’s mental health workgroup, will provide help and support for any Minnesotan who needs it in a timely, effective manner.

Please contact me with any questions you have about mental health or any other issues facing our state. Your feedback and ideas help me best represent you. Email me at or call me at 651-296-4848. It is a privilege to serve you!

Senator Carla Nelson is the chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee. She is serving her fourth term in the Minnesota Senate representing Olmsted County. She also serves as a member of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy and the Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committees.

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