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Timely support for women's treatment center in Willmar

Ten years after the death of their son due to an overdose, Mary and Dave Baker were on a construction site in Willmar this week to carry on work in his name. Project Turnabout is nearing completion on a 16-bed residential and outpatient center in Willmar where the focus will be on providing a continuum of care for women.

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Project Turnabout is nearing completion on a 16-bed residential and outpatient center in Willmar where the focus will be on providing a continuum of care for women. West Central Tribune / Mark Wasson

WILLMAR — Mary and Dave Baker remembered the 10th anniversary of the loss of their son Dan by carrying on the work they started in his memory.

It brought them Wednesday to a construction site on Seventh Street Northwest in Willmar, north of the BNSF Railyard, where workers with TerWisscha Construction are erecting a new facility for Project Turnabout Addiction Recovery Center . The new building is on track to open this fall as a 16-bed residential and outpatient treatment center for women. It is part of a one-block campus that also includes townhouses and Cheri’s Place, the restored Hulstrand family home that serves as a sober living home. Altogether, the campus will be able to house 44 women.

The Bakers were joined by Sara Carlson, executive director of the Willmar Community Foundation at the site. The Dan Baker Foundation donated $10,954 to Project Turnabout for its project here, and the Willmar Community Foundation contributed another $20,000.

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Accepting the donations was Marti Paulson, executive director and CEO of Project Turnabout. The contributions reflect the continued strong support that Willmar has provided Project Turnabout, according to Paulson. She pointed out that the nonprofit treatment center based in Granite Falls has no fewer than 15 partners working with it in Willmar.

The Bakers lost their son Dan on March 9, 2011, to an overdose, just one day after his release from treatment where he had returned after a relapse for an addiction to painkillers.

Since that day, the Dan Baker Foundation created in his memory has donated $275,000 to provide help for people with addictions. The Foundation’s support to Project Turnabout through these years has been very generous, said Paulson.

The current support is especially timely.

“There’s so much need,” said Paulson. “It’s horrible the amount of addiction that has gone untreated during the pandemic."

There were people afraid to go to treatment due to COVID-19. The virus infected staff and consequently reduced the number of people who could be accepted for treatment. And, COVID-19 restrictions hampered the ability to offer the in-person care that is so important to treatment, according to Paulson.

The isolation and stress of the pandemic took a toll on those suffering from addiction. The number of overdose deaths in Minnesota rose by 27 percent overall from 2019 to 2020, from 792 to 1,008. The number of overdose deaths due to opioids rose by 59 percent during the same period, from 412 to 654 of that total, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

It all adds to the urgency of getting the new Willmar facility up and running. On that account, Paulson had good news. She said TerWisscha Construction and Engan Architects had anticipated the challenges when this project was launched during the pandemic. Consequently, it remains on schedule.

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For Project Turnabout, the opening of the Willmar facility will put into place the final piece allowing it to provide the entire continuum of care, from prevention all the way through sober living, according to Paulson.

The Willmar facility will provide what is termed medium- and low-intensity residential treatment for women. The more intensive care, meaning more hours of treatment programming, will continue to be offered at Project Turnabout’s main center in Granite Falls, which has 131 residential beds for men and women.

What Dave Baker termed the “super niche” of the Willmar treatment facility is its focus on providing educational and career opportunities for women. Baker, a state legislator and business owner, said the area has an extreme worker shortage.

Women at the center will receive help in identifying their best career opportunities and support for them to undertake the post-secondary education needed. Several education partners are working with Turnabout to provide the support.

Paulson said the facility will also assist women in high-risk pregnancies in need of treatment thanks to a similar collaboration with Carris Health.

The mission here, she explained, is to harness the support of the entire community to surround women with the ongoing resources they need.

It’s not a matter of offering treatment and then, “there you go,” she explained.

It’s critical to provide women with support as they make the transition to sober living, she said. The stability that a good job can offer is part of that, she added.

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As the story of Dan Baker has made only too clear, the risks that addiction creates do not end when a person walks out of the doors of a treatment center.

What to read next
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