Rep. Patricia Mueller: Time to focus on mental health for Minnesotans

Published 6:26 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, we are finding how our response has affected our community. Feelings of uncertainty and isolation are all too common and are resulting in record numbers of people struggling with depression and other mental health issues. Recently, I learned that Mower County is planning to use their American Rescue Plan Act funds to create a mental health response in our communities. This is an incredible step towards addressing the current mental health crisis across the state and the country that is resulting in issues for hospital capacity, law enforcement resources, and families.

Mental health is an extremely important topic that we need to bring out into the public square. We need to end the stigma of mental health, and make it not only acceptable, but celebrated, to work towards mental health and treatment. During the 2022 legislative session, I have heard countless bills about how we need to address the mental health of our students, teachers, law enforcement officers, and the public in general. Most recently, I listened to a series of bills in Education Policy that were designed to address the mental health crisis in our schools. Unfortunately, the bills included unfunded mandates, questionable data practices, and unaccountable money spent on more bureaucracy.  I believe it is more effective to remove barriers to becoming mental health workers like social workers or school counselors, and to provide money to school districts directly so they can address the mental health of their staff and students in a way that make sense to their communities.

One of the biggest issues facing mental health is a lack of providers. We must work to attract more people from a variety of backgrounds into the mental health and social work fields so that we can have the people available to help those in need in a timely manner. There are also so many regulatory barriers to joining those fields that it deters people who would otherwise be interested in entering the mental health field. We need to take a comprehensive look at which regulations are truly necessary, and which can be removed to clear the way for more mental health professionals to help Minnesotans.

We can never forget that the best way to address mental health is to be a community that cares. Communities need to take care of each other. Check in on your neighbors, offer help when it’s needed, and treat people with respect, no matter what their mental health journey looks like. Community groups, schools, and churches need to partner with mental health organizations and professionals to better serve those who need it.

As the legislative session continues, I plan to work on this issue and others that are important to our local community. If you have thoughts on this or other issues facing our area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.