Bridge funding needed to support mental health

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Minnesota state legislators are making final budget and policy decisions around legislation that includes an 8% Community-Based Mental Health Rate Bridge increase in the Health and Human Services omnibus bill to maintain critical access to mental health services.

An increase in mental health funding is being sought to address years of operating with reimbursement rates far below the true cost of service and a severe shortage of well-qualified and licensed mental health providers. Mental health service challenges are also compounded with an increase in demand for services and more people seeking services for complex and acute care needs. Bridge funding will provide immediate investment in services until a future rate structure currently under design by the Department of Human Services is established.

“Immediate investment in rates for community-based mental health services is critically needed, especially for youth and families,” said Trevor Johnson, senior strategy director for Behavioral Health Services for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. “Even before the pandemic, we were seeing increased rates of mental health concerns and increased rates of suicide in youth. We are at a point where it is a significant crisis and challenge. We need to be talking about finding solutions and creating opportunity for youth, children and adults to connect.”

In October 2021, after observing soaring rates in mental health needs and emergency room visits among children and teens, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health, calling on policymakers at all levels of government to increase funding and support for mental health services. According to the Children’s Hospital Association, new data shows that mental health cases among emergency department discharges were 20% higher in 2022 than 2019.  

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is a provider of essential services serving one in 65 Minnesotans every year that include Behavioral Health services. In 2022, LSS Behavioral Health provided supports to 2,886 people in 84 counties through 21,143 in-person therapy visits, 10,297 telehealth visits, 70 employer groups, 14 school partnerships, and two shelter-linked mental health partnerships.

Tori Clark is an LSS mental health therapist who works with middle school youth and families offering an afterschool skills-building program for youth. She also coaches parents on how to talk with their children about mental health and support them on life’s journey. During Mental Health Month in May, she offers this helpful guidance for parents:

  • Take an interest in your child’s activities and interests. Learn about video games they enjoy or books they are reading and join them outside to play catch.
  • Provide ongoing, safe spaces for conversation. Avoid starting with difficult questions. Check in to see how their day is going, what they might like to do over the weekend or how they feel about an upcoming test or school event. Engage conversation over games or car rides – distractions they may appreciate when talking about a challenge in their lives.
  • If your child seems withdrawn or upset, ask them what is causing distress and how you can help. Showing genuine care and concern can make all the difference. Children and teens don’t always want solutions to their problems, just someone to listen and believe in them.
  • Watch for signs of depression. In teens, depression can come out as anger, as well as being withdrawn or upset.
  • If your child is not comfortable talking about an issue, invite them to journal. That way, children and parents can create an open dialogue and “talk” about difficult challenges in life when topics are hard.
  • If your child could benefit from mental health services, ask them if they would like to talk with a mental health professional – either through their school counseling office or a community provider. If a child has suicidal thoughts, parents are urged to call 988 to connect with immediate support.

Mental health is the foundation for general health and wellbeing. As Minnesota legislators make final budget and policy decisions, Lutheran Social Service encourages Minnesotans to contact their state legislators to support the 8% Community-Based Mental Health Rate Bridge. You can find your Minnesota House and Senate members’ contact information here.

LSS Behavioral Health provides a wide range of mental health services for all ages and stages of life. If you or someone you know is struggling, Lutheran Social Service can help. Please call 888.881.8261 or visit for more information about services and locations.