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The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides Minnesotans with a variety of services intended to help people live as independently as possible.

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School-linked mental health services helping Iron Range students

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson (right to left) is joined by Cathleen Isaacson, her daughter Ava Paoletti, 9, and Lincoln Elementary School special education teacher Laurie Malkovich during a roundtable discussion on Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal to expand funding for school-linked mental health services Friday, Feb. 15, in Hibbing.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson met with education and mental health leaders on the Iron Range last week to learn from their decades-long experience providing school-linked mental health services. A proposal in Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget would double grants that bring mental health prevention and early intervention into schools across the state.

“We need to make sure Minnesota’s youngest minds have access to needed mental health services so they get started on the right foot,” said Jesson, who led a roundtable discussion Friday, Feb. 15, at Lincoln Elementary School in Hibbing. She first visited the region’s school-linked program last year and said that experience prompted her to encourage the governor to increase school-linked mental health funding statewide. “School-linked mental health programs like this make it possible for children and families to receive help in a convenient, familiar setting.”

The governor’s proposed budget would double the state’s capacity for school-linked mental health, making services available in 840 schools to approximately 13,900 students annually by 2017. More than half of those students will receive mental health services for the first time. The proposal invests $7.4 million in the next biennium and $4.9 million in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.

In rural St. Louis County, school-linked services have helped children overcome transportation and other barriers to mental health services for close to 20 years. With support from state grants as well as local funding, Range Mental Health Center now operates its ADAPT program at 26 schools in 13 area districts. Jesson was joined Friday by parents and grandparents of children who receive these school-linked services, school administrators, counselors and psychologists, social workers, mental health professionals and other members of the community who shared tips for implementing similar programs throughout Minnesota and their support for expansion of funding.

“It is the most wonderful program ever. It has helped her so much,” said Cathleen Isaacson of her 9-year-old daughter Ava, who has benefited from ADAPT in Hibbing Public Schools. Isaacson said she’d also support additional funding to continue the program in summer months, and education programs to help her son and other students’ families better understand mental health issues.

In addition to increasing school-linked mental health grants, the governor’s budget proposal also includes a cost-neutral plan to teach parents and siblings skills to support a child’s mental health treatment at home. The psycho-education benefit for families on Medical Assistance would be funded with projected savings from reduced use of the existing psychotherapy benefit.

More about human services budget proposals can be found on the DHS website.


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