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Mental health needs going unmet

WORTHINGTON -- When the state closed its mental health regional treatment centers nearly a decade ago, it left a void in service in southwest Minnesota for individuals suffering from mental illness.

About that same time, the Southwest Adult Mental Health Consortium formed with representatives from each of the 18 counties that were served by the Regional Treatment Center in Willmar. In February, the consortium met for a strategic planning session to discuss ways to better deliver service to clients with mental illness.

Nobles County Commissioner David Benson hopes the group will be favorable to establishing a program in Worthington, but what they really need is funding.

"There's still an unserved population and it's a hard to serve population," Benson told Nobles County board members during their meeting Tuesday.

With the closure of the mental health unit at Sanford Worthington Medical Center, Benson said there is a need locally for people with a dual diagnosis of mental illness and chemical dependency.

"That clientele, there just isn't a good program for them," Benson said, adding that the clients are usually male, and would best be served in a facility-based environment.

Benson said Tuesday that he, along with Nobles County Human Services Director Nicole Names and Southwestern Mental Health Center Executive Director Scott Johnson will be working on a presentation to give to the consortium. Other participants may include Rock-Nobles Community Corrections director Jon Ramlo, Sheriff Kent Wilkening and Commissioner Diane Thier, who also serves on the consortium.

"We want to begin the conversation about whether Nobles County could serve that role," Benson said. "The population isn't high -- maybe five or six at one time. The mental health units won't take them, and Anoka, the state facility, is a long way away."

Benson said the idea of establishing a program locally is just in its infancy, and will need to be discussed more thoroughly.

In other action, the board:

* Learned that both applicants for the Nobles County Library director position were rejected, and administration will now look through the file at remaining applicants. They may have to readvertise for the position.

* Accepted a MnCHOICES grant of $5,289 to purchase about half a dozen laptop computers for the Nobles County Human Services Agency. The laptops will be used by staff in the field as they conduct long-term care assessments.

* Approved an application from Dakota Golf Management Inc., the management company for Prairie View Golf Links, for an on sale 3.2 beer license and set-up permit. The county receives $25 to issue the beer license, and $100 for the set-up license.

* Received an annual plan and report from Ed Lenz, Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District manager.

The SWCD expects to have a busy year, implementing the remainder of the $300,000 in ARRA funds for erosion control projects in the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District, completing four feedlot projects to address on-site pollution and meet state standards, conduct a feedlot improvement project in Larkin Township and work on a lakeshore stabilization project on Lake Ocheda.

"Because of your funding and continued support, we're able to leverage $2 million in state and federal funds in our county," said SWCD board member Paul Langseth. "We have worked hard and staffed appropriately in order to make this work. There is a lot of conservation on the ground, and there is a lot more to be done."

* Received the annual report from Bruce Casey of the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust regarding the county's five-year history in property and casualty claims, contributions and dividends, and worker's compensation contributions.

* Received an update from Kendra Van Beusekom, Nobles County 4-H Program Coordinator, on activities in the 4-H program. She announced that 4-H will host a radio auction from 8 to 11 a.m., April 30, on US 104.3. The fundraiser will help pay for the 4-H summer intern and additional programming for the organization.

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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