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Brainerd Hospital Denies Care to Committed Patients

The St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd has begun refusing to admit patients under a civil commitment to their 16-bed mental health unit. By only accepting patients who voluntarily seek treatment, Essentia health is discriminating against people with the most serious mental health conditions. This may make things easier for Essentia, but it will significantly weaken an already overburdened mental health system in Greater Minnesota.

Essentia is right that serious flow issues have kept many committed patients in their facility for a long time, particularly following the passage of the 48 hour law, but that is no reason to exacerbate this further problem and refuse to admit patients with some of the greatest needs in the state. The Star Tribune ran an article last week on the issue. In response to this troubling issue, NAMI's executive director Sue Abderholden had this to say to the Star Tribune: "These are real people. They aren't chess pieces. And they don't just go away because you won't admit them."  Read MPR's Bob Collins' blog on the issue, here.

Following this decision from the St. Joseph's Medical Center, more pressure will be placed on other area hospitals already struggling with similar challenges and may even prevent some people with mental illness from receiving treatment at all. NAMI urges Essentia health reconsider this discriminatory practice and begin offering mental health services to everyone, even those with additional needs and more treatment challenges.

The Commissioner of Human Services released this statement:

"I was informed of this extremely troubling decision by Essentia, one of the largest health systems with significant resources in Greater Minnesota. The patients that the health system has decided to turn away are some of Minnesota's most vulnerable people. They are in crisis and should not be denied treatment as if they are an inconvenience.

"I have heard from health care executives and seen firsthand the real strain that these highly challenging patients put on hospitals across our state. But denying them treatment will only shift the problem to other hospitals, whose emergency rooms and psychiatric units will be even more overtaxed. Beyond that, I worry that other hospitals, in turn, could follow Essentia's lead. Now is not the time to limit options - we have real work underway at our Anoka hospital, our community behavioral health hospitals, and within other health system partners to ensure resources continue and are supported as the needs grow throughout our state."