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Crow Wing County Board: Feds select Northern Pines for pilot program

The Northern Pines Mental Health Center in Brainerd is located at 520 NW Fifth St. Michael Johnson/Brainerd Dispatch

A mental health clinic in Brainerd was one of six providers in the state selected for a pilot program seeking to fill the gaps in substance abuse and mental health care.

Northern Pines Mental Health Center will participate in the federal pilot program designating the facility as a certified community behavioral health clinic. The purpose of the program is to coordinate care for patients across multiple providers and increase consistent use of evidence-based practices.

Tami Lueck, adult services supervisor in community services, requested the county board provide a letter acknowledging Northern Pines' work in the community and its intent to work with the organization on the pilot project. In a request for board action, Lueck said it was important for the county to coordinate its efforts "to ensure mental health consumers, especially those that are uninsured, receive services when they are deemed eligible."

Commissioner Paul Thiede asked whether the designation meant patients must go to Northern Pines to seek services. He said he remembered conversations concerning this when the organization was working to receive the designation.

"I think there was discussion about the fact that this might somehow or other impinge on the marketplace of providers," Thiede said.

Lueck said consumers could continue to choose other providers in the community if they prefer, but Northern Pines would be responsible for coordinating care and following that consumer through the system.

Laura Vaughn, executive director of Northern Pines Mental Health Center, said they would work to integrate care.

"It's making sure people don't fall between the gaps," she said.

The county board approved providing the letter unanimously.

In other business, the board:

Approved a letter to send to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, requesting the county's decommissioned landfill be added to the state's Closed Landfill Program. The landfill, which opened in 1974 and was part of the first batch of waste disposal sites permitted through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, has been cared for by the county since its closure in 1992. It is one of the few landfills from that era not monitored through the state's program—an alternative to the federal Superfund program for cleaning up hazardous and polluted sites. The MPCA would not accept the county's landfill into the program due to vinyl chloride levels slightly above the allowed limits.

As part of the state Legislature's environmental omnibus bill, the landfill was made eligible for the program.

Entered a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Corrections concerning the housing of state prisoners at the Crow Wing County Jail. The contract extends through 2019, and reverts back to a standard agreement permitting 30 days' notice before cancellation. On its last contract with the state, the county amended the contract to require a six-month notice. At the time, it was the only county granted that notice extension among 18 with state contracts.

Authorized a contract with Anderson Brothers Construction for a reclamation project on County Highway 36 from Fairfield 114 to Highway 6. The engineer's estimate was $720,259.

Approved the hiring of Kristen Binsfeld, financial worker in community services, and Dave Giza, maintenance technician in facilities.

Accepted the promotion of Melodie Villnow to accounting technician in community services.

Accepted the transfer of Julie Herbst, child support officer in community services.

Accepted the departures of the following employees: Mike Davis, sheriff's deputy; Todd Szymanski, correctional officer; and Erin Butler, correctional officer. Replacement staffing was approved for all three positions.

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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