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Woodland Centers to move to new location in Montevideo

WILLMAR -- Woodland Centers is in the process of moving into a new and larger location in Montevideo that will allow the community mental health center to better serve the public. With more space, there will be more room for staff and programs an...

Briana Sanchez/ TribuneAdmissions specialist Caralee Mader organizes the storage room Friday, April 14, at the new Woodlands Center building in Montevideo.
Briana Sanchez/ Tribune Admissions specialist Caralee Mader organizes the storage room Friday, April 14, at the new Woodlands Center building in Montevideo.

WILLMAR - Woodland Centers is in the process of moving into a new and larger location in Montevideo that will allow the community mental health center to better serve the public.

With more space, there will be more room for staff and programs and more opportunities for people to receive care closer to home, said Dr. Ashley Kjos, executive director of Woodland Centers.

"We've just been growing and expanding there," she said.

The move, which began Friday and continues this weekend, will relocate the Woodland Centers Montevideo clinic to the former Thrifty White building on Minnesota Highway 7. The building was purchased last summer and extensively renovated.

The doors will open at the new location Monday morning. The entire project, carried out by all-local contractors, cost about $1 million.

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Woodland Centers has had a presence in Montevideo for the past two decades. The clinic space, which was leased from Chippewa County, serves as the western hub for Woodland Centers programs and staff.

Use of the facility has been on the rise, especially after staff were hired who are based full-time in Montevideo, Kjos said.

"They live there. They work there. They're there all the time," she said.

But with better access to services, space started to become an issue. The clinic has five outpatient offices "and it is busy," Kjos said. "We have no space for any of our rehab workers to be there. We have clinicians that don't have an office space."

The space crunch also made it harder to fully meet local needs. The community support services program, for example, has been able to offer only limited hours for its drop-in center.

Woodland Centers decided to look at possibilities for a facility expansion. The former Thrifty White building, with 9,000 square feet, emerged as the best option.

When the new location opens, there will be more space for psychiatric and outpatient staff, Kjos said. "Every staff member will have their own office," she said.

There's room for adult rehabilitative mental health services and for the community support services program to expand the hours for its drop-in center.

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Mobile crisis services also will have space of their own, with room for future growth.

The renovation aimed for a calming atmosphere. Seeking mental health care is often stressful for clients, especially when they're dealing with a crisis, and the designers sought to create an environment that helps lessen this, Kjos said. "When people do come in, we wanted them to feel welcome and that it's a safe place," she said.

Large windows bring ample natural light to the waiting room. Contractors also were able to save a stained-glass ceiling from the soon-to-be-vacated old facility and install it in the waiting room.

A grand opening for the clinic's new location will be held in mid- to late May.

With the expansion of the Montevideo center, Woodland Centers will strengthen its ability to provide outpatient mental health care, particularly in rural communities where people might otherwise have difficulty obtaining services. Woodland Centers operates in six counties - Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Renville and Swift. Big Stone County recently was added and the process of recruiting staff and finding an office location is underway.

It's a goal of the organization to help people receive care "in your community, when you need it," Kjos said.

That the Montevideo facility has seen substantial growth is a testament to the importance of meeting people where they are and encouraging them to seek care that in the past they might have avoided, she said.

"We can see this growing and expanding," she said. "We try to be as innovative as we can to meet the needs in each community."

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