Posted at 4:02 PM on July 19, 2011
by Madeleine Baran
Filed under: Health
Some of the state's mental health workers can return to their jobs. Judge Kathleen Gearin issued the order today.
Mental health providers have been hoping for a ruling for 19 days. They've said the delay has disrupted care for people with severe mental illness.
"I'm so happy right now," said Jim Riebe, who manages a mental health crisis response team in St. Cloud. "If they're going to come back, that will be a great thing."
Providers in Duluth and St. Cloud rely on state workers to provide about half of the staff for crisis response teams and intensive in-home services. The employees respond to calls from people who are suicidal or in other crisis situations. Other employees work on Assertive Community Treatment teams with psychiatrists, nurses and case managers to provide in-home services.
Gearin's order clarifies that the Department of Human Services can rehire workers for crisis services and the Assertive Community Treatment teams.
Providers say they don't know why the workers weren't deemed essential in the first place. The court documents released today shed some light on the matter.
The documents say that the Department of Human Services interpreted the initial shutdown ruling to not include state mental health workers who provide care at county and community health centers.
Here's an excerpt from the recommendations by Special Master Kathleen Blatz, the former state Supreme Court judge who was appointed to hear petitions about shutdown funding:
Since the beginning of the shutdown, DHS and the Special Master have learned that the layoff of these SOSD employees has had a dramatic effect on many county-based mental-health providers throughout the state. There has been a 50% reduction in crisis and ACT services because of the lack of SOSD staffing. At least one crisis-response team is no longer able to offer mobile services because it lacks sufficient staff. Mobile services are essential to ensure that seriously and persisently mentally ill people continue to take necessary drugs and medications.
In Northeast Minnesota, programs have closed their crisis beds because they lack sufficient staff. In addition, they are no longer providing on-call services between midnight and 8:00 a.m. In Southwest Minnesota, there are programs that have lost all both one county staff member, and thus, cannot provide any services.
There's no word yet on how soon the employees might be able to return to work.