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A big boost for kids' mental health -- $500,000 crisis grant will help reach those in need early

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A big boost for kids' mental health -- $500,000 crisis grant will help reach those in need early
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

DETROIT LAKES -- In 2005, the Becker County United Way did a comprehensive community assessment that identified mental health care access for children, and for adults, as two of the county's top five greatest needs.

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Three years later, those needs are gradually being met through a broad-based collaboration between human services and mental health agencies, area schools and health care providers.

The most recent piece of the puzzle fell into place recently, when Becker County Human Services learned that its application for a $500,000 Children's Mental Health Crisis Grant had been approved by the State of Minnesota.

Human Services Director Nancy Nelson made the announcement at this Tuesday's meeting of the Becker County Board.

The grant, which takes effect April 1, will be used to fund a 22-month project known as the Becker County-White Earth Reservation Comprehensive Crisis Response Plan, according to project coordinator Cyndi Anderson of Detroit Lakes.

This county already has several "unique strengths" that made its grant application an attractive one, noted Anderson, who authored the grant application along with Don Janes of Becker County Human Services.

One of them is the fact that county human services is part of the Minnesota Consortium for Advanced Rural Psychology Training (www.mcarpt.org), an innovative project designed to reduce the shortage of psychologists practicing in rural communities through a one-year post-doctoral training program, based in Becker County and surrounding areas.

Another strength is the Shared Care Psychiatry Program, a partnership of several local agencies including Becker County Human Services, Lakeland Mental Health Center, Dakota Clinic (now Innovis Health), MeritCare Clinic and St. Mary's Regional Health Center formed to improve the quality of psychiatric care available in Detroit Lakes and the surrounding area. (Visit the Web site, sharedcarepsychiatry.org, for more information.)

MCARPT and Shared Care are both part of this project, along with BCHS, White Earth Tribal Mental Health Services, Becker County Children's Initiative, Solutions Behavioral Health Care Professionals, Stellher Human Services, Drake Counseling, Lakeland Mental Health Center, Lutheran Social Services, Indian Health Services-White Earth, Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, North Homes, Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, Becker County Court Services (Probation), and school districts in Detroit Lakes, Frazee-Vergas, Lake Park-Audubon, Waubun-Ogema, White Earth (Circle of Life), Mahnomen and Pine Point.

"It's very much a collaborative project," Anderson said, which was another contributing factor in the grant's approval.

"We have all these pockets of success in addressing the issue of mental health," she added. "What has been missing is how to connect those (programs) and offer a stronger continuum of mental health services, for both children and adults."

The Children's Mental Health Crisis Grant will, according to Anderson, help develop an infrastructure for the collaborating agencies "to create a children's mental health safety net in the community."

One of the objectives of the grant will be for each of the participating agencies to send one or more of its staff members to undergo training as "triage therapists."

According to the grant proposal, these triage therapists "will be trained in crisis assessment and intervention and will have knowledge of mental health and school resources."

"Our goal is for each triage therapist to be trained in using common assessment tools... so we can make better and more appropriate referrals for more intensive mental health services," Anderson said.

With a common language for assessing children's mental health problems, the participating agencies "can do a better job of connecting these kids with the appropriate level of services needed," Anderson said.

Without a common language, however, service gaps can be created inadvertently, she added.

"The grant is, hopefully, going to close those gaps," Anderson said.

The hope is that by being able to identify mental health problems earlier in a child's development, "intervention doesn't have to be as intensive or extensive," Anderson continued.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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