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Mental health crisis center, detox facility to open in Bemidji in 2019

Bemidji Pioneer - 10/28/2018

Oct. 28--BEMIDJI -- Several years ago, Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp began informing state officials about the need for a local facility to provide treatment for individuals going through a mental health crisis.

Today, the pieces have fallen into place for the project.

In spring 2019, the Sanford Health Primewest Crisis and Detox Center is expected open at 3124 Hannah Ave. NW. The project is a public-private partnership between Beltrami County and Sanford Behavioral Health.

The 6,800 square-foot facility will have three sections and have 14 beds, according to Sanford Director of Behavioral Health Paul Nistler. One section will house the mobile crisis team, another will be dedicated to mental health care and the third will be space for detox treatment.

In the mental health wing, there will be 10 beds, five dedicated to patients in crisis and the other five for patients requiring longer term treatment.

"The long-term scenario is someone who needs treatment in the initial crisis and has more issues, so they may need to stay longer for their treatment," Nistler said. "The stay is deemed by case managers, insurance and what the mental health professionals find and a treatment plan is developed."

Long term treatment beds, also called intensive residential treatment, are for up to 90 days Nistler said, while the crisis beds are for up to 72 hours. A crisis, according to Sanford Behavioral Health's website, is a behavioral, emotional or psychiatric situation that would likely result in significantly reduced levels of functioning.

In the third wing, staff will be treating individuals for detox, whether it's alcohol or drugs, Nistler said. The detox center will have four beds and will be the only detox center in Bemidji.

Funding and renovating

The coming treatment center was formerly the location of Prime West, which partnered with Beltrami County to help provide access to medical services.

"When it started, the expectation was to have enough staff in the Bemidji area to do some social work. They ended up housing those types of employees at the county office, though," Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack said. "So, Prime West had this building that they owned, but they found out they didn't need to use it."

For a few years, the building had been leased to nonprofits by Prime West, such as the United Way of Bemidji Area. Meanwhile, local and state officials were working toward a solution for the mental health issue.

"This all really started back in 2015, when the Legislature created a study group related to offenders with mental illness," Hodapp said. "The thought at the time was to look at all of the offenders in the state who suffered mental illnesses."

Hodapp said he was visited by legislative officials who saw first-hand the lack of resources toward treating mental illnesses in the community.

"It's a desperate problem," Hodapp said. "We would have people in a crisis situation and the only place we would be able to take them to was the jail. We'd bring them to the ER, or try to get them placed in a facility, either in Duluth, St. Peter, Grand Forks or Fargo. More often, though, there wasn't a place to take them to.

"The jail is not a place for person who hasn't committed a crime, and in most cases, these people hadn't committed a crime," Hodapp said. "But, we didn't have another place to go to keep them safe."

In the following years, the Legislature provided $2 million for a Beltrami County project mental health treatment project, Mack said. The project moved forward when Prime West opted to donate its building to the county, which will own the building to receive state dollars. Sanford Health, meanwhile, will lease the building from the county.

In the next several months, the inside of the structure is getting a full renovation at a cost of $1.2 million. The majority of the cost is covered by the grant, which can be used for internal safety and service features specific to behavioral health and patient needs. Sanford Health will be covering the remaining costs.

According to Nistler, along with Beltrami County, the center will serve several other communities. Minnesota has multiple regions related to mental health and Beltrami County is in Region 2, along with Clearwater, Hubbard and Lake of the Woods counties. Nistler said the new center will serve a facility for all of Region 2.

While it's a step in the right direction, though, Hodapp said more like it will be needed moving forward.

"I think it will have a significant impact, it will probably not be enough, though," Hodapp said. "It is a significant project, and it's a big move for our county, but it's still not going to be enough in the end."

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(c)2018 The Bemidji Pioneer (Bemidji, Minn.)

Visit The Bemidji Pioneer (Bemidji, Minn.) at www.bemidjipioneer.com

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