Somali community’s mental health focus of House bill

By Miranda Bryant

Omar Nur, executive director of the Somali American Social Service Association, testifies before the House Human Services Policy Committee regarding HF3098. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kim Hicks, left. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
Omar Nur, executive director of the Somali American Social Service Association, testifies before the House Human Services Policy Committee regarding HF3098. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kim Hicks, left. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
Mental health education and support could be coming for some Somali students and their mothers in Rochester.

Sponsored by Rep. Kim Hicks (DFL-Rochester), HF3098, as amended, would fund $900,000 in both fiscal years 2025 and 2026 for the Somali mental health pilot project.

Laid over Monday by the House Human Services Policy Committee, the bill would require the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association to partner with the Rochester Math and Science Academy and the Somali American Social Service Association to implement the project.

The trio would be required to expand a dialectical behavioral therapy skills pilot project for 20 or more academy students, provide an educational program to build resiliency skills and improve students’ social and emotional development, and establish a discussion group for mothers of students to promote physical and emotional wellness. A report would be due the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2026.

MN House committee hears bill to fund Somali mental health pilot project 2/19/24
“The concept of the mental health is viewed as taboo” in the Somali community here, said Omar Nur, executive director of the Somali American Social Service Association. “…The result is self-harm, suffering, and property damage.”

Mohamed Jama, administrative assistant and afterschool activities coordinator at Rochester Math and Science Academy, said a Somali woman attempted to kill herself and her five children in October 2019 by locking them inside a car in a garage to fill the car with exhaust. Ahmed Osman, family services manager at the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, said a Somali teenager gouged out both of his father’s eyes. The father had called Osman a few weeks prior to advocate for help for his son.

“The key question is how do you change it, the perspective of an entire community that moved into a different world,” said Osman.

Rep. Jeff Backer (R-Browns Valley) questioned numbers from the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association’s 2021 tax returns, showing $3.3 million in revenue and $469,000 in expenses. “Where did that go?” he said. Hicks said she would obtain an answer to that question.

By somaliptv