Touchstone Legislative Update

‘We need to put a spotlight on our mental health system- focusing on what works and the work that is left to do.’ 

Touchstone and its allies have been busy on the Hill. This legislative session has featured several issues pertinent to our clients and our mission that Touchstone and our partners and allies have taken action to support. Including, zoning issues that will affect locations of affordable housing, rate calculations for residential treatment services, additional rural mental health care providers and overall mental health care funding and access.
Concerns around zoning and low income housing locations have been a big issue these last few months as we have been working to bring housing options to cities like Edina, and have been met with opposition. Along with our allies in the housing and mental health fields, we have been advocating to ensure that local zoning doesn’t keep out desperately needed mental health and low income housing options. While many communities don’t want these projects in their backyard, it is imperative that we find ways to bring affordable and accessible housing to those most in need of a home and stability. Research has shown that having a stable home is an important component for recovery for individuals with a diagnosis of mental illness. It is not uncommon for individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses to face difficulty finding safe affordable housing in a neighborhood of their choice. Many live below the poverty level and cannot afford fair market rent. That is why we applaud last session’s historic investment in affordable housing funding in Minnesota. That is also why Touchstone Mental Health is focusing our growth on partnering with affordable housing developers to be a service provider at these projects to meet this need in our community. Despite assurances about property values and crime rates, adamant opponents remain unconvinced. When people are operating from a place of fear and stigma it is hard to find middle ground.  This highlights the necessity for legislation to protect against discriminatory attitudes and behaviors. Drawing parallels with historical injustices, such as redlining and discriminatory housing policies, we see how systemic biases have perpetuated economic and racial segregation. Today, similar prejudices use local zoning and planning ordinance to keep project from moving forward that continue to foster division and hinder progress.
Local governments are ill-equipped to address these systemic issues, and this necessitates state-level intervention. Therefore, we have lent our support to proposed legislation that would limit municipalities from halting emergency shelters or affordable housing programs and economic segregation in Minnesota. We are proud to continue this work at the institutional level and lend our voice and expertise to creating long term, positive impact for our communities.

Pictured: Touchstone CEO, Ellie Skelton has testified in several committees and during the Mental Health Day on the Hill at the community rally to share the urgency and need for support for mental health care and related funding.