Newsmakers: Hennepin Co. Commissioner Irene Fernando Talks New Mental Health Funding
Hennepin County recently voted to allocate $20 million of federal COVID relief dollars for mental health initiatives. Commissioner Irene Fernando says the money will go toward increasing some current programs and new ones too.
“It’s a whole range. Some of it is increasing or expanding what we already do with a big focus on youth and families,” said Fernando, who represents who represents District 2, which covers Golden Valley, Medicine Lake and Plymouth.
“Mental health is health. We certainly hope that over the last couple of years we’ve deepened our understanding around the many ways that health and mental health and behavioral health might express itself.”
Funding will come from the federal American Rescue Act Plan and efforts will focus on communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Fernando says focus will be on how the county and services are meeting residents where they are, in a restorative and meaningful way.
“If I were to call 911 today and was in need of that type of support, sometimes that jail cell or emergency room bed are the only really viable options for me,” said Fernando. “Neither of those are likely suitable for my needs and certainly during the pandemic, we want to be able to not add further strain to our hospital systems.”
Funding Focus Areas
Increase youth and family access to support
- Mental health supports in schools – expand access to 85% of students (compared to current 13%)
- Family home visiting – support healthy child development and caregiver mental health
- Public health and child protection partnership – provide health screenings and connections to services for children
- Support for parents with substance use disorders – offer an option for parents to get treatment at home, reducing need for child protection
- Youth crisis stabilization – expand services to reduce the need for out-of-home placement
- Juvenile behavioral health initiative – work countywide to divert youth from justice involvement
Improve mental health crisis response, reduce justice system involvement
- 911 reform – create an alternate response to 911 calls that are related to mental health
- Alternative to jail, hospital – expand programs at 1800 Chicago to provide round-the-clock, walk-in care
- Embedded social workers – direct people who contact police for mental health reasons toward social services
Increase awareness and access for all
- Culturally specific mental health services – develop a network of providers who meet the needs of a diverse community
- Mental health awareness campaign – fight mental health stigma and prevent suicide in the community
Learn more about the board action here.