Unfortunately, Allina Health shut down the mental health unit for teenagers at United Hospital in St. Paul leaving parents of mentally ill children furious and raising alarm among the nursing fraternity, mental health advocates and officials in the state of Minnesota.
By September this year, the operations had been moved to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis leaving families like Susan’s with limited choices and increasing difficulties in accessing life-saving services for their vulnerable juveniles.
For 14 years now, Susan has been searching for suitable psychological support for her 14-year-old daughter who survived sexual assault.
Even though they had great experiences out of United Hospital facility, they can no longer access any help that might have supported her daughter’s healing process.
According to Susan “It has been a really hard journey” highlighting how she struggled to find a perfect solution for her daughter who continues to suffer from serious mental health problems triggered by trauma from sexual attack.
For purposes of protecting her daughter’s identity as a victim, Susan is anonymous in this composition.
Allina Health’s decision to close its centre has aggravated concerns over mental health care strains within the area.
Emergency room usage for mental health care is on the rise after closure as noted by nurses like Chad Schulze.
In addition, 5 INVESTIGATES discovered an email whereby the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter addressed these concerns to Allina Health.
They alleged that during what is being described as a “mental health crisis,” it was inappropriate for the company to decrease capacity, adding that such services should not have been shifted away from east metro area towards Minneapolis.
The letter also accused Allina Health of disregarding regulations upon shutting down facilities without notifying Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
This violation was admitted by Allina Health officials while speaking in an interview with them; they further pointed out that there was misunderstanding about what this rule meant.
Dr. Lardizabal admitted her mistake as the vice president of mental health and addiction services at Allina. “It was our error. They told us that we did not interpret that regulation correctly” she said.
Consequently, MDH has scheduled a virtual public hearing on December 21 to address these changes and concerns, inviting stakeholders and concerned individuals to participate and voice their opinions.
State Senator Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) expressed her disappointment in the hospital’s failure to comply with regulations, indicating a need for stronger legislative measures.
“The law that we put in place seems not strong enough,” Murphy stated, highlighting the necessity for revisiting and fortifying regulations to prevent similar lapses in the future.
Therefore, this incidence has opened up issues with regard to the adequacy of laws regulating hospital closures, especially following previous instances of consolidations and closures in Greater Minnesota that sparked public outcry.
There’s an emerging opinion that such requirements may need improvement for purposes of protecting essential healthcare services.
According to Dr Lardizabal there is a troubling discrepancy between available resources and mounting demand for adolescent psychiatric help as evidenced by low utilization rates at the Abbott Northwestern unit for children’s mental health.
Susan’s situation is one faced by many families. Over the past year and a half, her daughter has spent an astounding 95 days in various Twin Cities emergency rooms due to lack of available inpatient beds.
Finally, Susan had to move her daughter into a residential facility in North Carolina, once again illustrating that bed shortages for kids with mental needs are dire in this country.
“We’re actually losing children’s beds and more children need help with their mental health,” Susan complained representing urgency for actions that can fill this widening gap in mentally ill services.
The Allina Health closure of the adolescent mental health unit has caused concerns as well as regulatory attention and efforts to toughen legislative support for fundamental mental health services meant for vulnerable kids and teenagers within Minnesota.
In the face of this crisis, various stakeholders and policy makers have been exploring possible ways of addressing urgent needs for accessible and comprehensive mental health care among young people in the state.