Notes From The Capital: April 2019

Expanding Access to Mental Health Services for Students
I’ve learned the lessons of depression the hard way. It’s something I experienced first in my late teens, and then again in my 30s. I know how blessed I am to have had early help. Everyone should have the same access to mental health care, regardless of our insurance, our zip code, or our age. Yet too many people can’t get the help they need, and that includes young people. Just last week, I heard from educators, students, parents, and mental health professionals about the need to address the mental health of students in schools at Franklin Elementary School in Rochester and Johnson Senior High School in St. Paul.

So this month I introduced a bill to bring comprehensive mental health services into schools. My bill would also train teachers, families, and community members to recognize when a student is experiencing a mental health crisis. Providing these services in schools could also help decrease the stigma and eliminate barriers—like transportation or missing class—that keep some kids from getting help.

I’ll be working to move this bill forward because students should be able to access mental health services where and when they need them. Learn more about my push to improve mental health parity in my recent op-ed here.

Investing in Minnesota’s Rural Communities
Minnesota’s rural communities face a host of challenges. Two topics that come up in conversation time and time again are access to health care and access to broadband. So this month I introduced a pair of bipartisan bills to address these issues head-on.

I teamed up with Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming to introduce a bill that increases access to telehealth, and makes sure Rural Health Clinics that are not connected to a hospital can still use hospitals’ lab equipment because it’s often more cost-effective. There are 96 Rural Health Clinics in Minnesota and over 4,400 across the country, which help provide care to over 7 million people. But these clinics are governed by regulations that haven’t been updated in decades, and a lack of reasonable upgrades is preventing people living in rural areas from receiving the best possible care. Our bill would address these problems.

I also introduced a bill with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio to help build out broadband to rural communities. Broadband is the infrastructure of the 21st Century. It isn’t just nice to have, it’s necessary. And if we’re going to build an economy that works for everyone, we need to seriously prioritize deploying high-speed internet to all Americans. Just like we did with rural electrification and the interstate highway system.

I’m going to fight for these bills to become law because they’re commonsense measures that will help improve the lives of Minnesotans.

Learn more here.

Bringing Lower-Cost Insulin to Market
For the millions of people in the United States who rely on insulin, the medication is not a choice; it’s a matter of survival. But insulin prices have nearly tripled in recent years, jeopardizing the financial security of Minnesotans and Americans, and forcing some into alarming, and at times fatal, rationing. This is flat-out wrong, and comes at a time when pharmaceutical companies are raking in profits.

So this month I introduced bipartisan legislation with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to create a new pathway to bring lower-cost generic insulin to market. Our bill would do what’s right—promote competition and improve affordability.

I’ll be pushing to move this bill forward. Helping Americans get the drugs they need should be bipartisan.

Learn more here.

Hosting the 9th Annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition 
This month I hosted the 9th Annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation  Hotdish Competition.

Minnesotans know that hotdish has the ability to bring people together, and when you have the chance to do that in Washington without getting politics involved—it’s a testament to why this tradition continues year after year. For non-locals wondering what hotdish is, it’s similar to what other folks call casserole, but indisputably better.

A big congrats to Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who won this year with her “Hotdish A-Hmong Friends.” I want to also give a congrats to all the new members who did not disappoint with their first go at the hotdish off.

Three Minnesotans judged the competition: Fata Acquoi, Chief Organizer of Liberian DED Lobby Day, an effort to extend humanitarian protections for Liberian Minnesotans and provide a path to citizenship, who lived in Brooklyn Center before moving to Washington; John F. Edman, a Stillwater resident and Director of Explore Minnesota; and Patrice Johnson, a self-described Nordic Food Geek, meatball historian, and author living in the Twin Cities.

I’m glad that year after year, this tradition continues and the hotdish just keeps getting better. Check out recipes from all 10 participants here and check out photos from the competition here