St. Cloud State cuts will be devastating to Minnesota’s mental health workforce

August 22, 2023 8:00 am

Tina Sacin

Minnesota is struggling to keep up with the mental health crisis. Across the state, 80% of Minnesota counties have a mental health worker and facility shortage. Too many people are in need of help, and there are not enough therapists to help them. 

Untreated mental health conditions can have devastating consequences, such as loss of employment, chronic health issues, substance abuse, and suicide — causing a ripple effect on families and communities. 

As a mental health care professional managing operations for 22 outpatient clinics in Minnesota, I’m passionate about bringing mental health practices to the communities that need them most. 

Recently, this meant opening a new mental health clinic in St. Cloud. There is a need across Minnesota for more clinics and providers, but the St. Cloud clinic was specifically identified as a top priority for our agency so we could partner with Dr. Tina Sacin of the St. Cloud State clinical mental health counseling graduate program. Sacin’s innovation and commitment to the training of the Minnesota mental health workforce was a deciding factor in our decision to open in St. Cloud. I have worked with Dr. Sacin over the years, and her ability to strategically work towards programming that mutually benefits SCSU and community partners, that prioritizes serving our community better, is unlike any other faculty member I have worked with.  

St. Cloud is very dear to me. I earned my master’s degree at St. Cloud State, and during my career in mental health care I have long looked to SCSU’s graduates because of the quality of practitioners produced by its graduate programs. SCSU students are exceptionally trained and leave their programs well-prepared to make a difference in our communities — immediately.

Given this legacy, I was shocked to hear the announcement that SCSU’s current administration plans to remove 83 programs, including the master’s program in marriage and family therapy and a faculty retrenchment in the graduate program of clinical mental health counseling. 

As a St. Cloud State alum, I understand that the budget deficit and declining enrollment require the administration to make changes. But as an institution whose mission is to “positively transform our students and the communities where they live and work,” this is disappointingly irresponsible. 

With so many in our state needing care, what message does this send to our communities? 

Across Minnesota, waitlists of patients in the thousands continue to grow due to a shortage of therapists. Cutting off a trusted pipeline for these essential practitioners will have compounding effects on both SCSU as an institution, and on our state’s health care system.

What sets SCSU graduates apart as they enter the workforce is their diversity and real-world experience. The graduates we see leaving SCSU are often non-traditional and international students who have gained real-world experience that is uncommon. These graduates provide valuable community connections and are relatable to patients, making a huge difference in the level of trust and care received. These graduates become leaders in our community, rather than leaving the field like many in the mental health workforce. SCSU does something different, something unique that we need to support.

I’ve worked at SCSU and seen firsthand how the university’s faculty go out of their way to create amazing learning experiences for their students. It’s painful to see the impact of budget cuts on an institution that is working to provide high-quality education and to produce exceptional clinicians who are so desperately needed in our communities.

The SCSU administration’s decision to cut these programs and cut faculty in favor of impersonal online programs will have serious consequences on the university and on our state’s mental health crisis.  

For the sake of my alma mater and the state of Minnesota, I truly hope SCSU will rescind this proposal and continue to offer these critical programs with funding that is proportionate to the demand for mental health workforce.

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Hallie Corbett
Hallie Corbett

Hallie Corbett is the executive vice president of Minnesota clinical operations at Ellie Mental Health. She strives to champion Ellie’s mission of transforming the culture of mental health by destigmatizing mental health and removing barriers to care to increase access to quality mental health care for all.