Sen. Miller update: focusing on mental health

April 19, 2018

Greetings from the Capitol,

Every year, many of the items on the legislature’s agenda will be the same – issues like supporting our schools, health care, transportation, taxes, and more. But there are also unique issues that require special attention. This year, one such issue has leapfrogged to near the top of our list: mental health. The mental health crisis is one of the single most important issues facing communities throughout the state and frankly the entire country. Addressing this crisis is a top priority this session for Senate Republicans.

Too often, there is a stigma around mental health treatment, which can make it difficult to reach people who need help. We have to do a better job of eliminating that stigma and getting people who are struggling the treatment they need.

Senator Miller speaks on the floor

Senator Miller speaks on the floor

One significant obstacle is a shortage of beds. Too frequently, people facing immediate mental health crises end up in emergency rooms or in jail simply because there is no place else for them to go. The ‘lucky’ patients end up being taken to psychiatric hospitals that might be hundreds of miles away. The challenges don’t end there; upon release, many people find themselves homeless or desperately searching for shelter.

We can provide better treatment for people battling mental health issues or substance abuse disorders under our plan to construct six new mental health crisis centers. For individuals who require a longer stay or extended care, we propose using housing infrastructure bonds to create permanent supportive housing options. When our friends, neighbors, and family members are in crisis, we help them get back on their feet.

Students are particularly vulnerable to mental health struggles. Suicide is among the leading causes of death for children aged 13-18, and teenage suicide attempts are on the rise. In 2015, we approved the use of telemedicine to improve access to basic medical care in underserved areas, which allows doctors and medical professionals to evaluate and treat patients remotely using technology advancements. We propose expanding the use of this technology to schools, so students can receive faster, better mental health support.

The issue of mental health is also simmering under the surface of many Greater Minnesota communities. Depression rates in rural areas are through the roof, and emergency room visits related to mental illness increased faster than they did in the metro. Minnesota recently launched a Farm and Rural Helpline to help farmers and agricultural folks in need of help, and in addition, we propose funding mental health support for farm families and business operators through farm business management programs.

Identifying and treating mental health issues is complex and challenging, and there is no silver bullet. With a multi-faceted, comprehensive approach we can provide better resources, better treatment options, better education, and empower people to get the care they need.

As always, your feedback is extremely important to me and I encourage you to share your input on the issues being discussed here at the Capitol. If you have any questions, thoughts, or ideas, please send me an email at or call my Capitol office at 651-296-5649. It’s a great honor to serve as your State Senator.