It’s time to address the children’s mental health crisis in Minnesota

By Laura Arnold, RN 

As a pediatric nurse for over 15 years, I have interacted with and cared for many patients and families experiencing various types of mental health needs. I would like to share what I believe Minnesotans need based on my experience as a nurse and as a mother who is walking this journey.

I could spend hours discussing physical and emotional trauma experienced by patients, families, and staff. Bottom line, if we are seeing them in our hospitals, they are already in crisis, and we are only able to put band-aids over serious problems before sending them out the door.  

We need more access to family-centered early childhood interventions. I have learned that these issues are whole family problems. Therapies work best when initiated young and addressing all members of the family to establish a foundation of trust and emotional connection. This could dramatically reduce physical aggression and make it more likely for the family to thrive with community supports when the child is older. Families also need increased funding for respite care services so they can ensure they have the capacity to continue to be supportive and caring families.  

We also need to pay our Personal Care Assistants and skilled direct care providers a living wage that values their skills, especially when supporting children with complex behavioral health needs. I know the trauma and danger that can be avoided by having consistent caregivers who understand how to work with this population.  

And finally, we need more options for skilled staffing and facilities that can safely meet the needs of children with complex mental health needs who are discharged from the hospital but who are not able to return home. We need to stop the boarding of these children for months in the hospital, where they become more stressed and are unable to access simple things like fresh air and sunshine. 

For all these reasons, I support SF 1174/HF 1198 and urge the legislature to pass this bill to help some of the most vulnerable people in Minnesota. Many thanks to Senator Morrison and Representative Hanson for their leadership on this important issue!