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State deals yet another blow to the WRTC staff

The Department of Human Services once again has shocked local state employees and officials involved in the Willmar Regional Treatment Center and the state's initiative of community-based adult mental health programs.

In a recent letter from Department of Human Service's State Operating Services, employees were informed that as of June 30, 2007, the state "will cease the practice of employing state staff to serve in the adult mental health initiative."

So the 70-plus state employees who have supported the state's new adult mental health initiative by transferring to new off-campus initiative teams now find out that their state employee status ends at the end of the current budget year in June 2007.

That was a major shock to the local employees, county officials and local legislators.

This is a serious concern for these employees. Many of these employees have worked for the state for more than 25 years. These employees sacrificed some retirement eligibility options when they transferred to off-campus programs. Now they are losing their state employment status.

Simply put, the state employees who bought into the new off-campus program initiative are being rewarded by the state removing their state employment status. It doesn't seem right or fair.

Certainly, local county and legislative officials are not happy about this latest announcement.

Not only are these current employees now uncertain about their future employment status, the sudden change impacts the Minnesota counties to implement the community-based adult mental health initiative.

In southwest Minnesota, 22 counties now must re-evaluate their two-year effort to implement the communitybased adult mental health initiative. These officials met for an annual meeting Friday to start looking for answers.

Local legislators will hold a public meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Willmar Public Library to seek answers as well.

Whatever the Department of Human Services' intent was, the recent memo was a very poor way to communicate the message. It scared all the employees. It created unnecessary worry for county officials. It's raised more questions than answers.