MARSHALL – U.S. Senator Tina Smith visited the Western Mental Health Center in Marshall Tuesday afternoon to hear from staff and local political leaders about mental health care and their policy priorities as a rural community mental health center in Southwestern Minnesota.

Senator Smith asked staff what was working well and what they needed help with. Sarah Ackerman, Executive Director of Western Mental Health Center, said the staff and the partnerships they’ve formed with other groups and agencies across the region have helped them provide quality mental healthcare for residents. However, the lack of inpatient beds and funding for essential services and mental health crises can put healthcare providers and other staff in a bind.

“There’s a real need across the whole continuum from preventative care, the very early stages of a young person’s life, to somebody who’s in a crisis and needs to be in a safe inpatient environment for a while, and there’s a shortage of options for them too,” Smith said.

Last month, Smith reintroduced a bipartisan bill called the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act, which would address the shortage of providers by giving student loan repayment to mental health professionals who work in areas with mental health professional shortages. Additionally, she reintroduced a bipartisan bill last week with South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds called the Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act to expand access to mental health care, especially in rural areas.