County making changes to mental health services

Anoka County plans to provide more upfront services to adult clients with mental health issues.

It is using state grant dollars to redesign its adult mental health intake program.

As part of that redesign, the Anoka County Board, on the recommendations of its management and human services committees, has approved a new, non-budgeted social worker position in the adult mental health intake unit.

Limited term means the position will last as long as there is state funding for the program, according to Cindy Cesare, county social services and mental health director.

For the intake redesign program, the county is using unspent dollars in the county’s community support services adult mental health grant from the state.

The county received $628,000 in 2013 for the community support program and has spent some $400,000, so money is available for the redesign project, the county board was told.

Through the intake redesign program, one centralized mental health contact point will be created; there are presently five, Cesare said.

The one contact point will also mean that clients will only need to call one phone number for assistance, she said.

This will increase efficiency, improve community access and provide upfront services to clients through early intervention, for example, setting up appointments with psychologists and therapists, Cesare said.

And the early intervention services to clients will  decrease reliance on court-ordered action, like civil commitments, which are costly to the county, according to Cesare.

Legislative action in recent years has meant that the state has passed on to the county more of the costs of involuntary civil commitments of county residents for mental health problems at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and state hospitals, she said.

“Reducing the number of court-ordered commitments will save the county money,” Cesare said.

The new social worker position, which is a restructuring of an existing vacancy in the human services division, will provide direct early intervention community support services, she said.

In addition, the county  is advertising for a lead clinical support person for the intake unit and hopes to have that person on board in February or March 2014, according to Cesare.

At one time the county had five state supported workers in adult mental health intake, but that has dwindled to one as a result of state funding cutbacks in recent years, Cesare said.

The redesigned adult mental health intake system will also align and streamline record keeping and data collection for more efficiencies, she said.

Support for the intake redesign project has come from the county’s Mental Health Advisory Committee, which in October, passed a motion stating that the upfront services “will provide the right service at the right time for individuals with mental illness.”

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]