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Southwestern Mental Health Center to get new offices in Luverne

Dennis Gyberg stands in front of the former Lewis Drug Store building which will become the new SWMHC offices in Luverne. Brian Korthals/Daily Globe

LUVERNE — On the heels of completing a new office complex for staff and programming in Worthington, the Southwestern Mental Health Center is now taking on a new project.

With offices in each of the five counties it serves, SWMHC has outgrown its space in Luverne, where its agency headquarters are, and plans to remodel the former Lewis Family Drug location on Spring Street for its new offices.

SWMHC Executive Director Scott Johnson said their existing space, in the former Southwestern Bell telephone building in downtown Luverne, is no longer adequate.

“We had assumed a long-term lease that the school had for the building 14 years ago,” Johnson said. “It had about four years on it, and then we extended for 10 years.”

That extension ran out last August, and Johnson said it is being extended every six months.

“We have more people than we have office space here,” Johnson said of the need to relocate.

The search for a larger space began about a year and a half ago. Then, last fall, one of the SWMHC board members suggested they consider the former Lewis Drug building, which was coming up on auction.

Johnson said the agency bid on the building, but the seller withdrew the auction sale. That led to private negotiations between SWMHC and the owners of the Lewis Drug building.

The building is about a third larger than SWMHC’s current office space, and according to Johnson is “just a big shell” at this point.

“We’re going to remodel it into private office space to house our outpatient clinic for Luverne and all of our administrative offices for the entire center,” he explained of the 9,000-square-foot facility.

“I wish it was done already because we have such terrible space problems,” he added.

Johnson said he is still working on financing for the remodeling work, and is in the midst of completing an application for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Service Facilities loan program — a federal program frequently used by hospitals and clinics.

“We hope to secure a low-interest, long-term loan,” Johnson said, adding that it could be up to a year before the space is ready for the SWMHC offices to move.

The new location, at 117 S. Spring St., is just a block off Luverne’s Main Street and includes off-street parking, handicap-accessible parking and handicap-accessible restrooms.

“It will be a much better facility,” Johnson said. “It’s going to enable us to expand our operations to have more efficient, serviceable space in Luverne for our clinic and administrative operations.”

SWMHC has 20 full- and part-time employees at its Luverne offices, who provide essentially the same services as staff in the agency’s other offices in Pipestone, Windom, Worthington and Jackson.

“We have everything — psychology, psychiatry, counseling, crisis response, intensive family-based programming — and school-based services in the Luverne school district, which will be expanded,” Johnson said. “Some of our larger five-county operations are based in the Worthington location.”

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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