Guest Commentary: Mental health crisis requires increase in Medicaid rates

Published 8:26 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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By Dr. Michelle K. Murray, CEO of Nexus Family Healing

And Karen Wolf, Executive Director, Nexus-Gerard Family Healing

As a mental health provider, Nexus Family Healing and our local agency, Nexus-Gerard, see first-hand, every day, how mental health struggles can impact youth, families, and our communities. We also see the difficulties families have in simply accessing care.

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No one in Minnesota should struggle to find mental health services.

Like many issues we face, fixing the mental health crisis in our state can seem insurmountable, but we must try. One clear step forward is to increase our Medicaid rates for mental health services. This step is foundational to stabilizing and growing the care that is so greatly needed.

There is currently at least a 40% gap between the cost of delivering care and what Medicaid currently reimburses providers for that care – causing many providers to shut down much-needed services, and amplifying the shortage in care that already exists. Mental health service capacity is shrinking, with 66% of mental health providers decreasing their services due to inadequate rates, and another 38% closing services down completely.

The impact of rate issues on those needing help is long waiting lists and mental health crises that could have been prevented. Youth are being stranded in emergency rooms for weeks on end, with no place to go. Youth who need higher end services can find themselves involved in the juvenile justice system due to mental health needs that have not been addressed.

At Nexus Family Healing, we are determined to fill the gap in mental health services across Minnesota, but due to Medicaid rates we are often thwarted to create new, innovative programs that could help those in need in our local communities. Here in the Austin area, we are proud of our longstanding residential services supporting youth with the tools they need to heal and move forward, and of our in-school and outpatient therapy services we provide youth and families in the community. While these meet important needs, the current rate structure does not allow Nexus to fill the gap in services in our community.

We must reverse this trend, working together to build a strong mental health care system. Our legislators must act now, in 2024, to increase Medicaid rates. Our children, families, and community cannot afford to wait any longer for timely access and early intervention services.