MN Legislature Approves St. Paul Bethesda Hospital Plan

A compromise mental health financing plan passed in the last minutes of the legislative session would allow for the construction of a new mental health facility in St. Paul, as well as $93 million to address an existing crisis.

Fairview Health Services seeks legislators’ approval to build a new 144-bed mental health hospital near the Capitol to replace Bethesda Hospital. When it became evident that lawmakers would not finish their job on time, a clause allowing the project to carry forward as well as money for other mental health services was put onto a related bill.

Gov. Tim Walz has indicated that he will sign the law, but as of Thursday, he has not done so. Walz has two weeks to sign legislation voted at the end of the legislative session; if he does not, it will not become law and will be termed a pocket veto.

In response to inquiries about the measure, Fairview sent a formal statement thanking politicians and advocates who assisted in getting it passed.

Fairview’s statement stated, “There is an urgent and continuous need to improve mental health treatment in our community.” “We are now undergoing a public interest assessment and look forward to providing regular updates on our progress and offering this critical care to our patients and community online.”

The bill contains additional monitoring of the proposed facility to address concerns made by mental health activists that it would be inaccessible to people in the community who need it the most – the homeless, the impoverished, and those with other significant underlying health disorders.

Advocates have stated that more mental health beds should be located in full-fledged hospitals with emergency departments and intensive care units.

Fairview officials have stated that the facility would maintain the organization’s charitable care purpose and will be available to the public. Patients with severe health requirements may need to be treated for in hospitals with critical care facilities, they recognized.

The state health commissioner is required to monitor the hospital and examine its patient mix under a measure passed by MPs. In addition, the hospital must include an admission area where patients can walk in, be transferred from other hospitals, or be transported by ambulance or police.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Minnesota, stated, “I think they attempted to address the issues individuals had without saying no.” “They have a lot of data to keep track of.”

$1 billion in increased education expenditure was one of the most significant parts of the proposed supplementary budget that was not completed. It was part of a $4 billion package of extra spending and tax savings that legislators agreed upon in principle but couldn’t agree on the details.

One source of contention was school mental health funding to assist kids and teachers in dealing with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Mental health problems are wreaking havoc on students and educators,” said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, the state teachers union, in a statement asking legislators to return to the Capitol to continue their job.

Abderholden backed the need for additional education funding.

“This does not, in any way, replace the education bill,” she said of the last-minute deal. “There were a number of really wonderful things in the education bill. There’s definitely a lot more we’d like to see.”

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