Kandiyohi County to question state’s mental health plan

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Commissioners hope to get some answers for how the state Department of Human Services intends to meet the long-term mental health needs of west central Minnesota residents.

WILLMAR - The Kandiyohi County Commissioners hope to get some answers for how the state Department of Human Services intends to meet the long-term mental health needs of west central Minnesota residents.
The Commissioners’ questions about the state’s plan follow news last week that the DHS is proposing to close a mental health hospital in Willmar that services children, and down-size another Willmar facility that treats adults with chemical addictions and mental illness,
The Commissioners have invited DHS Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry to attend the Feb. 17 county board meeting.
Barry is tentatively scheduled to be at the meeting, which will allow Commissioners to have a “direct conversation” about the proposed facility changes and how it could affect delivery of mental health care in the region, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.
“Everyone wants to know what the plan is,” said Kleindl, during Tuesday’s county board meeting.
Kleindl said it’s understood that programs must be run efficiently, but he said concerns about the availability of services - and the money to fund them - have persisted since the state’s treatment centers closed.
As a part of the original redesign plan, the state’s had promised a continuity of care that included availability of hospitalization.

It also offered step-down care facilities and out-patient services that would allow residents to receive service close to home.
“It appears funding for that system hasn’t kept up with the needs and the cost,” Kleindl said. “We need to find out where those dollars are going.”
As part of the proposed DHS budget, the Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services program, which is housed on the Minn-West campus in Willmar, would be closed.
The residential psychiatric hospital is the only one of its kind in the state for children and adolescents.
The DHS is proposing that the Willmar facility be shut down and that community hospitals with psychiatric units be used to treat those clients.
DHS is also proposing that the Community Addiction Recovery Enterprise, or CARE, program in on the Minnwest campus in Willmar be downsized to 16 beds. It currently serves about 25 individuals.
Local legislators have said they intend to look for options to the DHS proposal.
In a recent interview, Rep. Dave Baker of Willmar said he was “alarmed” with the proposed closing of the youth facility and has met with Gov. Dayton and DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson to discuss expanding services in Willmar instead of decreasing them.
Baker said developing services and adequate beds for individuals with chronic mental illness in west central Minnesota could be addressed by dedicating a pod in the Kandiyohi County Jail.
“Willmar is the perfect place to do this,” he said.
Baker said he had a “good conversation” with Dayton and Jesson about possible options but said at this point there are “so many more questions than answers.”

READ MORE: Proposed DHS cuts affect Willmar

The county hopes some of those questions get answered if they get a chance to talk directly with DHS officials.
In other action, the cost of publishing delinquent tax notices will be increased to the individuals who have delinquent taxes.
A fee of about $10 per parcel of tax-delinquent property had been assessed to the property owner to have the noticed publicized.
To reflect the actual cost of publication and administrative time for county employees to prepare the documents the Commissioners agreed to increase the fee to $35.
It had been 25 years since fee had been increased. Kleindl said the fee increase means that Kandiyohi County residents who pay their property taxes won’t have to subsidize publication of delinquent tax notices, which are required by the law.
The fee other counties charge ranges from $25 to $75 per parcel, Kleindl said.
“We’re still on the lower side of what other counties are charging,” he said.
The Commissioners also appointed an engineer and set a public date for April 21 on a proposal to turn a section of County Ditch 26 in Irving Township into a wetland. The 73-acre impoundment site would trap sediments and reduce phosphorus from water that flows through the ditch system, which is located near Lake Calhoun in the northeast part of the county.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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