Mental health services would get $110 million under Sen. Senjem' - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Mental health services would get $110 million under Sen. Senjem's proposals


Sen. Dave Senjem (R- Rochester) is preparing to introduce two bills that would invest $110 million into mental health services in the state.

Under the proposals, $75 million would go toward several permanent supportive housing facilities for those suffering from mental illnesses. Sen. Senjem is also calling for $25 million to help build five mental health triage centers around the state. In addition, $10 million would be allocated to cover operating costs.

Sen. Senjem said he plans to introduce the bills next week. The money would come from a capital bonding request.

For the senator, mental health hits close to home. He said both his parents had suffered mental illnesses, and his father committed suicide when Senjem was just 12 years old.

"It leaves a mark on your life," said Sen. Senjem. "And you understand what this illness is all about."

Sen. Senjem said he is confident that his proposals would gain enough support from fellow lawmakers.

Also supporting the senator's proposals is Carrie Clark, Warmline coordinator at National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Southeast Minnesota in Rochester. Clark manages a helpline for those suffering from mental illnesses.

Clark had once battled mental illnesses herself, and said her experiences allow her to relate to the people who call. 

"I just wanted to give back to the community that had helped me through everything," Clark said.

According to NAMI, 20 percent of American adults experience mental illnesses. And serious mental illnesses cost the country more than $193 billion a year in lost earnings.

Clark said Sen. Senjem's proposals would help alleviate a growing problem.

"What's happening is you're going to emergency rooms and there is such a long list of people waiting, and so few beds, that they end up 'boarding,' what they call it, and staying in the hospital emergency room for weeks," explained Clark. "We need a triage center to help with the heavy activity in ERs, and we need the [supportive] housing for people coming out of the hospital that need a place to go."

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