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Lawmakers try to find health funding

ST. PAUL -- Some Minnesota lawmakers say they have found a way to prevent closing physical and mental health facilities serving the disabled, mentally ill, chemically dependent and those with brain injuries.

ST. PAUL -- Some Minnesota lawmakers say they have found a way to prevent closing physical and mental health facilities serving the disabled, mentally ill, chemically dependent and those with brain injuries.

They would spend $17 million in federal and state money to keep the facilities open at least temporarily. Some lawmakers say the goal is to fund the programs until Gov. Tim Pawlenty leaves office, with the hope that the governor who takes office next January will be more friendly toward the programs.

If lawmakers adopt the Berglin plan, it would supersede the Pawlenty proposal.

Berglin, the Senate health-care finance chairwoman, did not offer a complete plan and lawmakers said they have many questions about what services would be saved.

The Pawlenty administration was not ready to react to the Berglin proposal.

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Many lawmakers said the administration's plan does not show how patients would be treated after services begin to end as early as May 1.

Human Services officials say they do have plans.

Five dental clinics serving developmentally disabled Minnesotans in Fergus Falls, Willmar, Cambridge, Brainerd and Faribault would close under the administration's plan, three almost immediately. Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said these are severely disabled patients who cannot go to regular dentists because of their special dental problems and the fact that most dentists do not want to serve them.

Juhnke said the administration's decision to shutter the programs is usurping legislative authority. "The governor shouldn't be doing this."

He said it is not clear how the Bergin plan would affect a Conversion of Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services facility in Willmar. Also unclear is the impact on child and adolescent psychiatric extensive recovery treatment facilities in Willmar and Bemidji.

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