Lawmakers question DHS data on closures of mental health programs 

Lawmakers question DHS data on closures of mental health programs

Lawmakers question DHS data on closures of mental health programs

Lawmakers want answers from the state’s largest agency after 5 INVESTIGATES found the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is unaware of the closures of more than a dozen mental health and substance use disorder treatment providers.

The programs are listed as “active” in a state database, despite having disconnected phone lines and empty office spaces. Several providers confirmed to 5 INVESTIGATES in September they hadn’t seen any patients in weeks.

Eric Grumdahl, assistant commissioner with DHS, declined to comment on specific programs but said in an interview that the programs that are not active “represents a very small number” of the total licensed providers.

But Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, called the discrepancies “unacceptable.”

“Oversight seems to be lacking a lot at DHS, and I hope and expect them to do better,” Utke said in an interview Thursday after seeing the story.

Providers and patient advocates have been sounding the alarm on the closures for months, warning that a workforce crisis and low reimbursement rates are forcing programs to make tough decisions.

One of those providers, Brian Sammon, was forced to close two intensive day-treatment programs that served adolescents with severe mental health and substance use disorders.

“This is the group of kids that if they don’t get this are back in the hospital, are suicidal, are running the streets, all kinds of stuff,” Sammon told 5 INVESTIGATES.

The need for those transition programs has grown in the aftermath of the pandemic, leaving children and teens with few options for care. 

During a joint legislative committee hearing Thursday, officials with DHS said they believe thousands of people were “boarded” at hospitals in 2023 due to a lack of beds in other transitional facilities.

Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, referenced the need to address mental health during the hearing.

“We have to do some looking at rates,” he said.