Prettner discusses mental health issues with area expertsDayton running mate attends listening session regarding mental health
WORTHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, running mate for gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton, stopped in Worthington Wednesday to discuss mental health care issues with area providers.
Prettner Solon, who is a clinical psychologist, was elected to the senate in 2002 to complete her husband’s term after he died of cancer. In May, former Sen. Mark Dayton announced Prettner Solon as his running mate.
“So many changes have been made in the mental health system,” Prettner Solon stated Wednesday. “I’m wondering what is working for you.”
The listening session was attended by those who work in the mental health or disability field — from family services agents to school psychologists — all who lamented the lack of mental health care options for area patients. Since the mental health unit closed at Sanford Medical Center Worthington earlier this year, the closest mental health facilities are in Marshall or Sioux Falls, S.D. According to one attendee, the Marshall facility does not take juvenile patients.
“My concern is the kids,” said school psychologist Lois Kester. “They end up being released to their parents instead of receiving the care they need.”
The waiting lists for new patients — child or adult — to see a psychiatrist for the first time is long, and that appointment could be three to four months off, attendees told Prettner Solon.
Another huge problem in the Worthington area is the huge gap in services for the minority population. In some cases, no resources are available for those who don’t speak English.
“Even in the metro areas there is that gap,” Prettner Solon stated. “As they deinstitutionalized, not enough services were built up at various levels of intervention.”
“We need more access to psychiatric services,” Nobles County Commissioner Dave Benson commented.
“In Duluth, too,” Prettner Solon responded. “There is a great need for psychiatrists all over.”
She said one initiative the state is considering is giving psychologists prescription authority, something the psychiatrists fight whenever the subject comes up.
Prettner Solon asked how closing regional treatment centers and moving patients into the community is working.
“The concept makes sense,” said Darci Goedtke, who handles adult service cases for Nobles County Family Services Agency. “It is still accessing those services we struggle with.”
“Is there anything that would help?” Prettner Colon asked.
“If I knew the answer to that, I’d be running for office,” Goedtke replied.
Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore said juveniles are being taken far out of the area for treatment, as are some adults, which is essentially turning deputies into a taxi service.
The most critical and dangerous people are sent to St. Peter, but those who don’t fall under that category are hard to place.
Kester again brought up the minority population and the lack of services for children who had been in the country only days, after spending a majority of their life in a refugee camp.
“We have kids who have never had enough to eat or have seen their parents murdered in front of them,” she stated frankly.
The cultural issues also cause problems, more than one expert said, because families don’t understand what a mental crisis is. Counseling a juvenile through an interpreter is not effective because of privacy and the halting of conversation, they also stated.
Prettner Solon said she appreciated the input, and while not having immediate solutions, knows it is important to know what is going on.