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State's addiction recovery program has new location on Willmar tech campus

WILLMAR -- The state's chemical addiction recovery program will have a new home on the MinnWest Technology campus in Willmar.

Pending final licensing, the program and its staff and clients could make the transition in the next week.

The move from two of the old three-story "cottages" on the campus to an existing single-floor building will allow the program to provide services more efficiently.

The move will also free up two more buildings that MinnWest can utilize for business growth.

Steve Salzer, general manager at MinnWest, said they had been waiting for the state Department of Human Services to make the move so that MinnWest Technology could acquire the two cottages and convert them for future technology businesses.

There are prospective businesses that are interested in leasing space in the buildings, he said.

Willmar has been known for its chemical dependency treatment programs since 1912, when the original State Hospital was opened here to treat inebriants. The program has undergone many changes since then.

With the closing of those hospitals in recent years, Minnesota has revamped and renamed its State Operated Services program.

It is now known as Community Addiction Recovery Enterprise, or CARE, with facilities in Willmar, St. Peter, Fergus Falls, Brainerd, Carlton and Anoka.

At the CARE-Willmar facility, residential treatment is available for men and women, ages 18 and older. A separate dual diagnosis program is offered for individuals who have both mental illness and chemical addictions.

Outpatient programs for adults and adolescents are also available.

"We're excited about continuing the strong history that was started here," said Denise Becker, program manager of CARE in Willmar.

The state continues to strive to "serve the clients in the most innovative way we can," she said.

The state gave the building an interior facelift before the CARE program is moved. An open house last week showed off the new wall colors, carpet, artwork, sunny day rooms and clean, pleasant bedrooms for clients.

The facility had been used for the state's mental health program that was moved last fall to the new Community Behavior Health Hospital in Willmar. Staff members have been preparing the building for its new clients ever since August. A final licensing inspection is required before clients can be moved. It was unknown exactly when that would happen, but it was expected in the next week or two.

There are four wings to the building, which will allow separation of men and women needing just addiction treatment and those with a dual diagnosis. There will be 12 to 15 clients in each wing.

In the old cottages, men were in one building and women in another. Multiple floors made it difficult for staff to monitor clients, especially at night. Having one facility on one floor will allow the state to utilize its staff better by sharing services, said Becker.

"It'll be nice to have it all under one roof," said Kay Johnson, who's worked with the state program for 41 years. The one-story building will improve communication between staff. "I think it'll be good."

The facility has 60 employees, with an equivalent for 35 full-time positions.

The program is currently licensed for 48 beds, but the new building would allow up to 90 clients if there is a need to expand services.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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