Two separate headlines in the Star Tribune within 3 days of each other pointed out the mental health crisis here in Minnesota. It echoes the larger issue of the mental illness crisis currently in our country.
The July 10th issue of the Star Tribune had an article: “Minnesota mental health crisis hot line closing Friday.” The July 14th edition of the paper reversed the news. “Crisis Connection hotline rescued, at least temporarily.”
Why is this news important and why should we care? You will and should, if you or anyone you know has ever struggled with mental illness, this is very disturbing. Mental illness can include those brief moments where it seems that there is no solution except despair and hopelessness. A human voice can mean the difference between despair and hope.
Crisis Connection provided that human element for almost 50 years. The phone lines were manned by trained volunteers who answered the phone 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They provided immediate short-term counseling, referrals to clinics and helped callers develop a plan to get them to a better physical and emotional place of safety. There were approximately 20,000 calls handled annually. (Minnesota mental health crisis hot line closing Friday, Star Tribune, Chris Serres, July 10,2017)
It is a single mental health line that covered the entire state of Minnesota. Each county is obligated to provide mental health crisis lines but access can be confusing to someone in crisis. The Crisis Connection phone number is a constant after-hours resource listed on clinic and therapist’s answering machines as well as website crisis resources.
The issue was and continues to be funding. Canvas Health who offers other critical services in Minnesota including a range of adult programs, services to children and families, housing, transportation, chemical health and other psychological services was being drained by the financial output for Crisis Connection. The calls were too many and the funding sources were too little.
The temporary safety net is coming from a federal grant for suicide prevention. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH will provide $139,000 which will keep Crisis Connection operating through September. (Crisis Connection hotline rescued, at least temporarily, Matt Sepic, July 14, 2017) An announcement on the Canvas Health website on July 14 said that other funds had been secured which will allow Canvas Health to remain open through the spring of 2018 (www.canvashealth.org). The crisis of Crisis Connection is now averted—for now.
Crisis Connection will now continue operating. Our collective attention would be well served to be aware of the mental health situation in Minnesota. I think of the possibility of knowing even one of those 20,000 callers.
“We are incredibly grateful to MDH and its leadership, as well as other funders, for recognizing the importance of this critical public service to the people of Minnesota,” said Matt Eastwood, Canvas Health CEO. “Because of their willingness to step forward to help keep these crisis lines open, lives will be saved.”
Please keep remembering the importance of this public service resource.