Reporter | Social Services

Jessie Van Berkel is the Star Tribune’s social services reporter. She writes about Minnesota’s most vulnerable populations and the systems and policies that affect them. Topics she covers include disability services, mental health, addiction, poverty, elder care and child protection.

She has worked for the paper since 2014, primarily covering state government and politics. She has also reported on the city of St. Paul and the Twin Cities' southern suburbs. Jessie previously wrote for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Post-Crescent, The Seattle Times, The Oregonian and MinnPost. She graduated from the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, she can usually be found planning her next trip, outdoor adventure or cooking project.


DOJ proposes consent decree with Anoka, alleging discrimination against people with mental illness

The Department of Justice is suing the suburb for discrimination, and state lawmakers also passed legislation to prevent cities from penalizing people for emergency calls.


Minnesota's child protection system needs fixes. Legislators are starting with these changes.

Measures approved this session laid the groundwork for long-term changes to Minnesota's child protection system, which has failed to prevent some cases of repeat abuse.


Minnesota poised to lose nearly 40% of its sign language interpreters

The state is assembling a plan to tackle the looming ASL interpreter shortage. Meanwhile, unfilled requests for the service from the Deaf community are growing.


Minnesota jails lack treatment even as overdose deaths spike

Inconsistent addiction treatment during and after incarceration leads to deaths and recidivism, experts say. A proposal at the Capitol aims to use federal Medicaid dollars to help.


Minnesota agencies too lax on grant safeguards, legislative auditor finds

A new report called for changes in how the Behavioral Health Division and State Arts Board give out taxpayer dollars.


Study: Minnesota's sex offender system is 'failed investment'

The state is spending more than $110 million this year on a sex offender program that locks up about 730 people. A new report calls for an end to the 30-year-old system.


Racial disparities in child protection prompt Minnesota legislation, federal complaint

Black children are twice as likely as white kids to be removed from their parents. For Native American kids, the disparities are even more stark.


Minnesota plan to close state addiction treatment facilities faces pushback

DHS wants to divert resources to address mental health crisis. Some fear Minnesota is "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and women with addiction will suffer.


Could Minnesota be among the first states to offer a basic income program?

No-strings-attached cash programs are popping up across the country. Minnesota has been home to five of the experiments. Now lawmakers are talking about $100 million to provide basic incomes to thousands.


Minnesota's 'archaic' tech wastes critical caseworker time, counties say

Gov. Tim Walz proposed $15 million for upgrades. Far more is needed to overhaul a crash-prone system used for child protection and other services.