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Stellher Human Services expands in size and scope: Agency now has second DL office, adds new outpatient services

Staff of Stellher Human Services in Detroit Lakes, in the basement of their new, second location on Highway 10 East. They are, left to right: Colleen Beck, MSW, LICSW, Co-Clinical Director; Becky Aadland, MA, MHPr, Marriage and Family Therapy, Outpatient and In-Home; McKenzie Schultz, MSW, LGSW, Outpatient Therapist; and Dave Erickson, Co-CEO. Marie Johnson / Tribune

In response to a growing demand for more mental health services in the Detroit Lakes area, Stellher Human Services has expanded into a second local office space and is offering additional ways to help people in need.

Stellher has provided crisis, counseling and stabilization services throughout several counties in northern Minnesota, including Becker County, since 1994. Headquartered in Bemidji, the agency opened a Detroit Lakes office in the Graystone building downtown about 10 years ago; that office will remain in use along with the new, larger office. Located at 28579 Highway 10 East, the new Stellher office shares a building with Drake Counseling Services.

Dave Erickson, co-CEO of Stellher, said the additional space gives Stellher room to provide some additional services, most notably outpatient therapy (therapy offered in an office setting rather than in a hospital, rehab center or other facility of that ilk).

"There was a need in the community, and it's something we've always wanted to do," said Erickson of providing outpatient services. "So we're excited about that."

Stellher has recently hired two new outpatient therapists to add to its team, McKenzie Schultz and Becky Aaland. Both will work with people of all ages, in a variety of capacities, yet each has her specialties—Schultz's is in adolescents and young adults, and Aaland has a background in marriage and family therapy.

What they do

Stellher partners with county agencies, schools and other social services organizations and collaboratives to provide mental health services to everyone from infants to the elderly. The private agency offers a 24/7 crisis hotline, crisis intervention, trauma counseling, early childhood mental health services, school-based mental health services, in-home services, outpatient therapy, and more. The agency provides the staff for Willow Tree halfway house in Detroit Lakes, and the crisis team makes regular visits to area emergency rooms and jails to offer counseling and support.

"We provide a lot of services for trauma or abuse," said Erickson.

He and his team say the vast majority of the people they work with have experienced some sort of trauma, which can contribute to a host of mental health issues. Traumatic experiences span a wide range, from neglect to sexual assault, domestic violence to medical procedures.

"Most adults living life have experienced trauma at some point, it's a very human experience," said Colleen Beck, co-clinical director at Stellher. "So, at some point, everybody could use help with something. If you're out doing what people do, things happen, and you might just need somebody to talk you through that. It could be a very short-term thing, even."

Beck said Stellher strives to take a "trauma-informed approach" to mental health care, with everyone from the people who answer the phones at the agency to upper management and administration trained to recognize and understand trauma.

Stellher also strives to take an evidence-based, individualized approach to therapy, with staff trained to meet the needs of each unique client using proven practices.

The feedback they get from clients is positive.

"People say, 'Wow, it just feels so good to be listened to. I've never been listened to like that,''" said Erickson. "And just the act of listening, it's amazing how therapeutic that can be. People feel more in control."

"People feel better almost immediately after telling their story," added Beck.

Who they help

When Stellher first got up and going some 25 years ago, the agency worked exclusively with children, and in Detroit Lakes today, kids still make up a significant portion of the clientele.

Staff at Stellher say they're seeing more kids with mental health issues now than ever before, with anxiety and depression especially on the rise. It remains unclear whether that's due to an increased awareness of mental health issues among the younger generations, less fear of seeking help, or an actual increase in the number of mental health problems young people are experiencing.

Whatever the case, "it's important to get kids help early on," said Beck.

Related to that, there's a growing demand for help for parents, with more and more parents reaching out to Stellher, or being referred to the agency, for assistance in dealing with their kids' troubling behaviors.

"Parents sometimes just struggle," said McKenzie. "I think parents sometimes feel like they're supposed to have all the answers. (Our services) can offer some relief to parents who are struggling with a child. Parents feel like they're heard and supported."

That goes for foster parents, as well. Stellher works with a number of foster families in the area, helping kids transition and settle in to their foster homes. Stellher helps foster families create attachment, bonds and trust.

But the growing need for services doesn't only apply to children. In general, Stellher has seen an increase in the number of Becker County area clients. In addition to the large number of trauma cases the staff sees, they're also seeing a growing number of people with chemical dependency issues.

Erickson said Stellher focuses on mental health and does not treat chemical dependency, "but usually if one issue's there, the other is, too," and there's an increasing demand for chemical dependency services.

The agency has also been seeing a growing number of kids and adults who have mental health issues related to exposure to drugs or alcohol in the womb.

Another issue of concern is homelessness. According to Erickson, there is "a huge need out there" for resources that can help the homeless.

Homelessness is a situation "that creates a lot of mental health needs," said Aaland. "We hope to be more and more a part of the solution to that."

Erickson said Detroit Lakes is "a great place" to be doing the kind of work that Stellher does, with strong social services partnerships within the community.

"It's kind of an honor that we get to be part of a great system of people that really are dedicated and put forth the effort," he said.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune as a reporter and magazine editor in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in Detroit Lakes with her husband, Dan, their 3-year-old son and baby daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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