Touchstone Residents Meet Al Franken
Touchstone Mental Health hosted Senator Al Franken on January 23, 2016 for an information session with thought leaders highlighting successful strategies to connect housing with integrated health and social services. The conversation centered on the need for housing stability as part of improving healthcare outcomes nationwide. Senator Franken committed to exploring opportunities further with colleagues in Washington, DC. After the meeting the Senator toured Touchstone’s Community Health and Wellness Center and the Rising Cedar assisted living apartment building where he met residents eager to speak with him.
Rising Cedar resident Russell welcomed the Senator into his apartment for a tour and shared more about his experience with housing instability. Before coming to Rising Cedar, Russell was moving between the hospital and unstable housing situations. “Before coming to Touchstone I was in the hospital, before that I was [in temporary housing] at a Touchstone IRTS [Intensive Residential Treatment Services], before that I was in the hospital.” When asked about the future, Russell’s eyes lit up when he spoke of earning his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and genetics from the University of Minnesota and going back to school to get a PhD. Although right now he said the goal feels a bit out of his reach, he has hope it may still be possible someday.
Jill, another Rising Cedar resident, also spoke about going back to school. “I’ve been accepted into a Master’s degree program, but it’s a full-time program and I can’t go to school full-time because then I can’t live here.” She told the Senator that rules preventing full-time students from living in buildings like Rising Cedar hold residents back from reaching their potential. She was thrilled to hear the Senator already agrees and has even introduced legislation to address that very issue.
Opportunities for people who have severe and persistent mental illness to have their voices heard are rare but can lead to feelings of empowerment and pride in our residents. We are grateful to Senator Franken for taking the time to listen, to engage and thoughtfully consider the experiences of these residents in addition to what he learned in the morning session as he returns to Washington.