Local mental health services remain tense | Deal

Due to its larger size, Mankato-North Mankato is home to a diverse range of mental health services for adults and children.

But a continuous increase in needs often means waiting lists and lack of some services, especially for young people.

“Fortunately, due to Mankato’s size, we have a good range of community-based mental health providers,” said Julie Stevermer, community-based services supervisor for Blue Earth County.

“So from that perspective, yeah, we’re lucky. But COVID has somewhat exacerbated the needs of families and children. So our staff is supported to make diagnoses. It sometimes takes up to three months before a young person or child can be diagnosed. There is such a high need now, so this is our biggest challenge” Stevermer said.

Matt Petersen, director of business development at PrairieCare, said that despite the number of services available here, there is a shortage of some services.

“We do very well in some things and fall short in others. For young people under 16 we don’t have a hospital facility so they end up having to go statewide or out of state.

“But I’m impressed. Since we arrived in Mankato in 2017, the sharpness of the suppliers here keeps growing. But there are constantly waiting lists. You’d like to be able to do more,” she said.

Nadia Hoffman, site supervisor at PrairieCare in Mankato, said there are also some big gaps locally.

“Some of our specialty therapies — sexual abuse, eating disorders and autism — are areas that really need more work here,” Hoffman said.

Jessica Smith, senior clinical director at Christian Family Solutions in Good Counsel Hill, said the pandemic, as well as perhaps other reasons, had increased demand for adults and especially children.

“There are many people who are suffering. Our phones are ringing. We try to help as many people as possible, but there are just a lot of people who need help right now,” Smith said.

County in the center

Blue Earth County is a critical core of mental health services, particularly for youth with severe and complex needs.

Stevermer said when children are diagnosed with serious emotional disorders, the county works to help families access community-based services whenever possible.

“They have suicides (risks), problems at home, problems at school, in the community. These are serious cases.”

He said the county currently provides mental health management to 165 children and youth.

“I have eight employees who are case managers for children’s mental health. We currently have 26 pending reports. The norm (waiting list) before COVID was probably 10.”

He said for cases of complex juvenile needs there are no residential psychiatric facilities locally to place them, and there is a long waiting list for beds elsewhere in the state or in other states.

“The waiting list can be six months,” Stevermer said. He said the county has been working with a young man since January with severe needs. The only residential program is in Massachusetts. The young man was finally to be placed there last month.

While youth with complex needs wait to be placed, county and community providers try to provide the help they need. This can include local day treatment, individual therapy and using the mobile crisis unit, which can come to someone’s home in an emergency.

She said more schools have added behavioral health services, which helps many students. “Kids can leave class and go to therapy. But not all schools have it”. Services are not paid for by the school, but by health insurance or other sources.

Expanding services

When someone needs help, PrairieCare and Christian Family Solutions are often the go-to providers for county, area physicians, families, and others.

“If you think about psychiatric care on a spectrum, on the one hand you have the sharpest hospital locked facility. On the other side, you have the traditional therapy or clinic or medication management where you see someone maybe weekly. Where we land is like a partial hospitalization program,” said PraireCare’s Petersen.

They see quite acute cases adults and children.

Young clients spend weekdays from approximately 9am to 3.30pm at PrairieCare, similar to a school day. “We team up with the school district so that a couple of hours provide instruction, then our nurses, therapists and drug managers take over,” Petersen said.

Hoffman said adults spend 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at PrairieCare, without the schooling aspect.

“It’s group therapy based on a full program and there’s individual therapy as well,” she said. “We also carry family support for adults and children.”

Hoffman said they’ve seen more younger customers, 5 or 6 years old, since the pandemic. “We assume there is a correlation with the pandemic and their not being in school and the delays in that social chunk.”

Petersen said PrairieCare has 20 employees in Mankato and has expanded its services and wants to do more. But he and others say they face the same worker shortages as other employers.

Smith said Christian Family Solutions focuses on outpatient programs. “We have different levels of care. We have outpatient and intensive outpatient programs for adults and adolescents.”

Outpatient clinics for teens often include in-person visits and online resources where clients can talk to other providers around the state.

Smith said adult clients often have both mental health issues and alcohol or drug addictions.

“One service we added about a year and a half ago is Behavioral Health Home, where we offer case management anywhere in the state and help people get jobs, get legal help, child care, housing. People can use it whether they’re getting other services from us or not,” Smith said.

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