Shutdown closes Duluth mental health facility

Posted at 6:47 PM on July 7, 2011 by Madeleine Baran (12 Comments)
Filed under: Health

A shutdown ruling last week appeared to preserve funding for state hospitals that provide treatment for people with mental illness. But at least one state facility that provides inpatient treatment has closed due to the shutdown.

The closure of Bridge House, a crisis facility in Duluth, surprised Rachel Scott. She relies on the center for outpatient services. Scott struggles with depression and short-term memory loss caused by a traumatic brain injury. She has trouble remembering to do basic household tasks and relies on a social worker at Bridge House for emotional support and practical assistance with benefits and other paperwork.

A few days before the shutdown, Scott's social worker told her the facility might have to close down. When Scott tried to call Bridge House on Friday, she was redirected to a generic state voicemail message.

MPR News called Bridge House today. The voicemail says:

"Welcome to the State of Minnesota voicemail system serving the Duluth area. Please re-enter the seven-digit number of the person you're trying to reach. Or if you're a subscriber on the system, please press the pound key. Thank you."

Scott says the facility should at least provide a voicemail message with information about other resources.

"Being routed to a state agency by an automated machine might be enough to put (some people) over the edge," she said. "I mean it's possible people could die because of this, and I think it's very serious."

A court ruling last week preserved funding for many programs that provide mental health services. It also continued funding for Medical Assistance, a state-run health insurance program that provides reimbursement for hospital and outpatient health care, including mental health treatment.

But the ruling did not include all mental health programs, creating confusion among providers and people who receive services. The closure of Bridge House highlights the complexity of the state's mental health services and the uncertain status of funding for certain programs.

Bridge House provides at least 12 crisis beds for people with severe mental illness, according to the Department of Human Services' website. It also provides outpatient services to help clients live independently.

The facility falls under the broad category of State Operated Services, a division of the Department of Human Services. The division provides services for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, chemical dependency and traumatic brain injury at nearly 200 sites around the state.

Department spokesperson Terry Gunderson said the ruling did not preserve funding for the entire State Operated Services budget.

"Much of State Operated Services is open, but some services are not," Gunderson said in an email. "Bridge House is closed - it was not designated a critical service by the court. There is currently a petition before the court that may impact Bridge House."

The department's website may have contributed to the confusion. It includes State Operated Services department included the programs on its list of "open services," without qualifying that some services may have closed.

Here's what it says:

"State Operated Services (direct care for people with disabilities) - prioritize critical services and treatment."

Gunderson, via email, said, "The key words on that bullet are 'prioritize critical services and treatment' which is intended to show not everything is open."

The department was not immediately able to provide a list of all open and closed State Operated Services. Check back with the Shutdown Blog for updates.

Comments (12)

Wow! That is absolutely unactceptable. My mother relies on services just like those that have been taken away. Not in Duluth, but in northern mn. Tha is inhumane. Its not right at all. I am so disapointed in. The members of the legislature that will not copromise. There is no good reason to endanger peoples lives, vunerable people, over principle. I hope for those who have no one or nowhere to go...

Posted by renie | July 9, 2011 3:05 PM

In addition to the services mentioned here, Bridge House also serves approximately 50 people for a medication management program that has now been closed. Other community agencies are working together and scrambling to provide medications to people who are unable to manage their medications or are court-ordered to use this program.
Bridge House also provides post-ECT care, is a safe place for people with mental illness/dual diagnosis to meet and socialize and finally Bridge House provides 7 staff (who are currently laid off) to the mobile crisis response team and two assertive community treatment teams, which, of course, are suffering and unable to provide adequate services due to this situation.
I would assume that hospitalizations have increased as a consequence of this program being closed.
Please call your legislators and let them know that Bridge House is a valuable resource for our community!

Posted by Lupine | July 9, 2011 3:23 PM

Apparently no one in the government has anyone important to them using these services!

Perhaps they could show some good faith by volunteering at these facilities to keep them open or donating some $$ because you can bet they aren't sleeping out on the streets right now, nor worried about where their next fru-fru coffee will be coming from...

And this is an example of what a great nation we live in? Forcing those who do not have the ability to care for themselves to go figure it out, and with such an encouraging and helpful voice message....we should be so proud!

As for the government, Fire them all! Let's start over!!

Posted by mlv | July 10, 2011 10:48 AM

I am an employee of Bridge House it should be noted that we also provide Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS). This service is provided in client's homes to help with being as independent as possible and to avoid hospitalization. Bridge House was as far as I know the only provider in town that accepted clients without health insurance.

I agree with the response mentioned above that without some of the supportive services and crisis stabilization that Bridge House state employees provide, the only option for those in crisis is psychiatric hospitalization, which is much more expensive.

Preventative services and alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization were designed to help people and also save money. This is another example of not just the hardships that people with disabilities face during this time of budget cuts, but also extra expense if people have difficulties to the point where they need hospitalization.

Posted by Laura Cole | July 10, 2011 6:53 PM

Governor Dayton and his attorney are aware of this situation and could order it open by a simple administrative order, without having to wait for the special court to take action.

The wheels of justice move slowly. As a retired family practice physician who has taken call over more than 20 years medical practice, my idea of responding to crisis to to act within minutes...with the MN Governor and legislature, we are dealing with an impasse in which while the Governor refuses to let the Republicans take away benefits to the most vulnerable in our society, on the other hand, he doesn't seem able to preserve those benefits during this unprecedented period in which the state is closed for business, whimsically deciding that the clients of Bridge House in Duluth are not worthy of the same mental health services which have been kept open as essential throughout the rest of the state.

Shame on you Governor Dayton.

Posted by Rachel Scott | July 14, 2011 8:14 AM

Governor Dayton did not have administrative order authoirty. It was SOS task to deem 'prioritize critical services and treatment'. With the Shutdown, Governor Dayton was able to perserve mental health services that would otherwise have been eliminiated. I suggest everyone contact their legistlative representative. If they could of comprimise, then there would never been a shutdown.

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