Thoughts on emergency psych holds and deficits at the state level


From: Craig and Sandy Brooks
Buffalo City

We want to commend Chris Rogers for his October 7 article”Winona Health closes psych. Unit.” We are retired from careers working in Winona systems affected by this issue, Craig as county human Service director and Sandy as an RN at St. Anne Hospice. Hearing the voices of patients, family and providers is important and all too often not heard or intentionally ignored.

We do appreciate that Winona Health has provided the psych unit and a holding facility in our community over these many years. We believe they really do mean to continue their efforts to provide mental health care — except for emergency involuntary holds.

A governmental, legal, law enforcement and funding matter needs to be highlighted. The hospital administrator was quoted as saying: “As for the hospital’s capacity to treat behavioral heath patients, she said that there might be less access for patients from distant parts of Minnesota.” For many years our small local hospital has been a dumping ground for metropolitan law enforcement who are stuck with a responsibility to put a person with out-of-control behavior due to mental health issues on a hold order when all of their local facilities say they were full. The person was driven all the way down here and then, in too many cases, getting any authorities in their home area to cooperate in efforts to move them back to an appropriate treatment facility in their home community was futile. This all caused the local hospital to lose money and to take resources away from being better able to serve local patients.

Helen Newell was quoted about the need for state government to address this issue. That is critical. In the past most emergency psych holds were in state hospitals like the one they closed in Rochester. That was funded by the state. Many emergency psych holds are brought in by family. But, most involve law enforcement.

An analogy of how government intervenes when behavior needs intervention is detox admission for drug use or alcoholism causing serious behavior problems. Those laws also allow for an involuntary hold in a facility. But here the state provides laws governing funding of detox centers.

The Minnesota Legislature needs to address this mental health service issue concerning access to and funding of emergency psychiatric intervention. The laws governing holds need to be changed so that any facility providing 24-hour psych holds can have a designated “service area” and not be required to take admissions from anywhere in the state. Another legal matter that can be addressed, but thus far has been ignored, is the ability to transport a person for involuntary holds across state lines. That needs to be within a reasonable distance but is important for communities like Winona.


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