Supervision, Client Representation, Necessary in Minnesota Mental Health Services Programs

I have mental health diagnoses and chronically disabled feet. Despite these challenges, I have my own apartment and a steady part-time job. In my experience, this is not the reality for everyone with these challenges. This unfortunate reality is not well known. Therefore, without further ado, I will try to shed some light on the subject. Clarity can be beneficial. Ideally, you will find my perspective helpful and enlightening.

As you, the reader, may or may not know, Minnesota offers many different mental health programs. I only have personal experience using residential housing, so this will be my focus. The housing program I lived in for four years included a mental health advocacy service, counselors, food staff, nursing staff, and activities staff. In my experience, program staff had trouble communicating clearly with residents and solving problems independently. There were traditionally 40 residents living in the program, and the residents traditionally paid for everything using a county-funded waiver. Our building was broken into multiple times, and the only expectation my fellow residents and I had was to participate in a wellness check every 24 hours. Other state funded services I have used have had similar problems.

Historically, the state-funded waiver that I have access to has funded my access to housing and has also given me access to other services. For a long time, I used it to access Independent Living Skills (ILS) services. In my experience, the ILS workers assigned to me also had trouble communicating clearly and solving problems independently. Another major problem was that the service had staff turnover problems. A problem that unfortunately also affected the housing program in which he lived. Thanks to my waiver, I have also been able to access transportation services.

In my experience, some transportation services designed for people with disabilities have been more reliable than others. All have experienced turnover issues. In addition, the drivers of some of the services have chosen not to wear seat belts. That being said, in my experience, transportation services have not had as many challenges as housing services or ILS services. Interestingly, all three types of services have one thing in common. They need more supervision.

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I have tried to advocate for more oversight of mental health programs. Advocacy organizations that can influence political change believe that the current Minnesota Mental Health System works. Their only focus is to acquire more funds to grow what already exists. Unfortunately, this means that it is up to clients to defend themselves. I say this sadly because, in my personal experience, many of my fellow clients are unable to do this due to their mental health issues. I have personally seen vendors exploit this challenge on many occasions. There is a name for it. It’s called a customer-oriented approach.

In the client-driven philosophy, the client drives your services. On paper, this may sound like a good idea. If clients’ mental health issues create significant barriers, they should see their providers for guidance. In my experience, this loophole allowed housing program and ILS program staff to remain employed despite significant challenges. In other words, they were legally allowed to operate their programs as a tax and donation funded experiment with no checks and balances. According to a quick investigation, these experiments remain active.

I alluded to checks and balances in my previous paragraph. Different people have different views on regulatory oversight. This variation is the solution. Throughout this story, I have shared my experiences as a customer of various services. Vendors have a different perspective, and so do local civilians. In my experience, the problem is that customers need a voice.

If the program financing services board lacks client representation, it depends on listening to the people who run the program. As I mentioned, the program staff have a lot of power because of the customer-driven loophole. The people who work on these programs might tell board members, taxpayers, or donors that things aren’t working. However, those in power have no incentive to give up all their power. The good news is that there are state traffic laws that make support transportation safer. It is my understanding that mental health programs and other services funded by the waiver lack this. Unfortunately, this will continue to be the case until regulatory oversight designed to create transparency and protect vulnerable adults who use these services is implemented and enforced.

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