National Alliance on Mental Health in Minnesota critical of Riverwood situation

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Minnesota has asked the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services to investigate why the Braham-based Riverwood Centers, that was a regional mental health services provider, closed March 17.

The agency, which for many years had served a number of counties including Mille Lacs, closed without notice after Mille Lacs County’s contract with Riverwood expired Dec. 31, 2013, and the county did not renew the contract.

NAMI stated it was asking the state and the governor to “address the loss of a critical mental health provider in east central Minnesota.”

NAMI continued that the closure of Riverwood in the five-county region of Mille Lacs, Isanti, Chisago, Kanabec and Pine “decimates the mental health system in those counties.” According to NAMI, the closure of Riverwood is “leaving thousands of children and adults who live with a mental illness and their families with no access to needed mental health services.”

NAMI stated that through “a quick review of Medical Assistance providers of mental health treatment and services in those five counties, we know that there are not a lot of options nor can the existing providers begin to serve all those that were left behind when Riverwood closed. There are approximately 20 organizations in those five counties providing mental health therapy or medications and take people insured by Minnesota Health Care Programs.”

NAMI stated: “It’s important to understand that counties are required under law to maintain funding for mental health services, what is commonly referred to as maintenance of effort. The dollars for each county for calendar year 2014 are as follows: Chisago – $2,166,422, Isanti – $3,720,702, Kanabec – $837,025, Mille Lacs – $783,842, and Pine – $1,062,896.”

This does not include grant funding that those counties received through the Adult Mental Health Initiative grants and Children’s Mental Health grants, according to NAMI.

NAMI stated that it “does not understand how a major mental health provider could shut down without notice and without any contingency in place.”

NAMI Executive Director Sue Abderholden said it is “simply unacceptable to allow people to languish without treatment. We need to know why this happened and what steps will be taken to address this terrible situation.”