News from DHS for August 2022

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News from DHS archive

In this issue:

Availability of free school meals expands to 90,000 new students

Preteen children at school

Governor Tim Walz announced a new effort across state agencies that will make free school meals available to approximately 90,000 additional students.

They are among more than 200,000 students on Medicaid who will be automatically enrolled or re-enrolled to receive free meals this school year. This new expansion of free meals for students is a result of the state applying and being accepted to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program this year.

“This project means fewer children will go hungry at school next year, and we know that’s the number one way we can help students succeed,” said Governor Walz.

Direct certification is a process by which children already enrolled in certain state programs may also be “directly certified” for free meals based on previous eligibility from other programs. This expansion of direct certification will also increase eligibility and reduce costs for schools to participate in the federal Community Eligibility Provision, which allows eligible schools to provide meals at no costs to all students, an important issue as the federal waivers that have provided meals at no costs to all students during the pandemic are not available to states next school year.

“As a child who relied on free and reduced-price lunch and a lifelong advocate for children and families, I know how much access to meals at school means to families across Minnesota,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan.

The project is a result of cross-agency innovations and discussions through the Children’s Cabinet with Minnesota IT Services, DHS and the Minnesota Department of Education. 

More information is in a Governor's Office news release.

First Minnesota maternal mortality report reveals opportunities to prevent deaths

MN Maternal Mortality Report 2017-2018

The Minnesota Department of Health released its first Minnesota Maternal Mortality Report (PDF), which examined maternal deaths during or within one year of pregnancy from 2017 to 2018.

While the report shows the state’s overall maternal mortality rate is much lower than the national average, it also shows stark disparities in mortality – especially among Black and American Indian Minnesotans.

Black Minnesotans represent 13% of the birthing population but made up 23% of pregnancy-associated deaths, and American Indian Minnesotans represent 2% of the birthing population, but 8% of pregnancy-associated deaths.

The trends identified in this report reveal unmet needs and opportunity for public health interventions at the community and systems levels. The report provided some key policy recommendations:

  • Support people enrolled in Medicaid to access essential services throughout pregnancy and one-year post-partum. Expanded coverage under Medicaid began July 1, 2022, in Minnesota, following a change in statue by the Minnesota Legislature and change in policy by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year.
  • Connect birthing people and families to resources and support throughout pregnancy and postpartum period to address food insecurity, housing, transportation, safety, mental health, and substance use.
  • Address bias and cultural competency in health care and public health, and how it impacts birthing people and their families. Enhance cultural and trauma-informed mental health and behavioral health care services.
  • Listen to concerns of birthing people and provide a network of support during pregnancy, delivery, and throughout the postpartum period.

More information is in an MDH news release.

In social media

MH Awareness Day at the Fair 2022

Posted Aug. 29 on the DHS Facebook page

This morning, Gov. Walz stopped by DHS' booth for Mental Health Awareness Day at the Minnesota State Fair to show support and chat about why #mentalhealthmatters.

If you're at the fair today, come pay us a visit! We're just outside the Grandstand in Dan Patch Park. Activities, entertainment and tables with mental health resources abound!

Special thanks to NAMI Minnesota for hosting this great event!

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Follow our DHS Careers Facebook page for announcements of hiring events, job postings, internships and more.

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More Minnesota families eligible for food assistance

SNAP logo

More Minnesota families struggling with grocery bills will soon be able to get help buying healthy food through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

When the program’s gross income limit increases on Sept. 1, an additional 1,400 households may become eligible for SNAP or may continue receiving their existing SNAP assistance, even if their income goes up.

For most households, the gross monthly income limit for SNAP in Minnesota will rise to 200% of the federal poverty line, up from 165%. Under the new limit, a family of three with an annual income of up to about $46,000 before taxes will be eligible.

More information is in a department news release.

Applications for Medicaid advisory group due Sept. 2

Submit your application for one of six open seats on the Medicaid Services Advisory Committee by  Friday, Sept. 2. The committee meets quarterly and advises DHS on health and medical care services.

Seats are opening for people and organizations representing the following:

  • Medicaid beneficiary or caregiver of Medicaid beneficiary (1 seat)
  • Physician or health care provider (2 seats)
  • Non-profit, consumer or human services organization (3 seats)

Submit your application, including a resume and cover letter, on the Secretary of State’s Boards & Commissions webpage.

newspaper beside a coffee cup

In the news

Income limits for SNAP benefits to increase on Sep. 1: Expanding SNAP eligibility will not only help families but also help reduce demand at food shelves. See the story by KIMT3 in Rochester.

90,000 more MN students to get free school meals based on Medicaid enrollment: This year, Minnesota is one of eight states chosen for a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program that will directly certify Medicaid recipients for free school meals. See the Pioneer Press article.

State ranks third in child well being, but inequality persists: Minnesota ranks third in the nation for child well being. While being third out of fifty is a marker of success, there are two troubling trends: higher rates of anxiety and depression as well as racial disparities in child well being. Learn more in a WCCO radio story.

OP-ED: Community health centers are the backbone of our healthcare safety net: In Minnesota our community health centers do an incredible job, not only meeting the health and social service needs of many of our neighbors who would otherwise face barriers in accessing our state’s health care system as it’s currently structured but doing so while delivering a high quality of care. Minnesota Medicaid Medical Director Dr. Nathan Chomilo writes about what's needed to sustain these centers in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

DHS fact sheets

New 2022 legislative session fact sheets:

Investment and policy focus on behavioral health care, opioids, foster care, homelessness (PDF) 

Behavioral health: Building capacity to serve people in crisis (PDF)

Competency restoration: Strengthening mental health care, improving public safety (PDF)

Other DHS fact sheets updated:

Child care assistance: Facts and figures (PDF)

Child protection in Minnesota: Keeping children safe (PDF)

Family Assets for Independence in Minnesota (PDF)

General Assistance (PDF)

MAXIS - public assistance eligibility and payments (PDF)