Cass County Board: Abuse, neglect cases lower in 2016

BACKUS--Interim Health, Human and Veterans Services Director Michelle Piprude presented the department's 2016 annual report to the county board Tuesday.

BACKUS-Interim Health, Human and Veterans Services Director Michelle Piprude presented the department's 2016 annual report to the county board Tuesday.

Child maltreatment allegations dropped from 2015. Neglect, the highest cause, declined from 450 to 423 cases. Physical abuse fell from 188 to 137 cases.

Sexual abuse dropped from 63 to 43 cases. Mental injury dropped from 20 to 11 cases.

Medical neglect fell from 17 to 10 cases. There were no cases of threatened injuries.

The department receives many maltreatment reports that do not meet the legal standard for abuse or neglect, she said.


Where children age 10 and under are at risk, she said parents are offered help through a voluntary parent support outreach program. Nearly 50 percent of those parents accept services from community based programs to help them become better parents, Piprude said.

With a rise in children born with drugs in their system, she said, parents are offered chemical dependency treatment financial assistance. Some accept help.

Cass referred 215 individuals for a chemical dependency evaluation in 2016.

Nine percent of Minnesota children and 5 percent of preschoolers have serious emotional disturbances that interfere at home and in school. Cass focuses on early identification, access to services and standards of care that lead to reducing symptoms and increasing functional abilities.

Adult mental health case managers help people connect to community resources to help them achieve their maximum self-sufficiency level, she said.

The county helped nine families finalize adoptions in 2016, up more than 50 percent from 2015. In addition to full adoption, Cass arranges court orders where an extended family member or close friend can get permanent legal custody of a child.

When a child is absent from school more than seven days, the county contacts the family to determine why the child is truant. Sometimes the court has to intervene if parents do not cooperate with sending their children to school, Piprude noted.

Cass collected $2,517,685 in child support payments from non-custodial parents in 2016 and paid that to custodial parents and to the state as a recovery for cash benefits and public assistance spend in supported families.


The adult protection team received 172 reports of suspected vulnerable adult abuse, neglect or financial exploitation in 2016, down from 216 reports in 2015. Guardianships or conservatorships can be used to prevent future harm to the person.

Cass home and community based services teams did 307 MNChoice assessments and reassessments to ensure people were receiving appropriate long-term care services and to determine whether they were eligible for public funding.

The county helped 153 developmentally disabled persons and their families and caregivers with residential, in home, educational, vocational and health services.

Cass County offered spring and fall training sessions for foster care providers. Cass will begin this year to use an electronic checklist when making licensing visits with child care providers.

Veterans services division began offering flu shots whether or not vets are enrolled in the VA health benefits program. At Longville, 37 got their shots, while 27 went to Backus. The county expects to offer those vaccination clinics again this fall.

Cass has 3,311 veterans, a 1.3 percent decrease from the prior year. Minnesota lost 4.3 percent of its vets. The nation had a 7.3 percent decrease.

The state awarded Cass a $12,500 grant in 2016 to reintegrate combat veterans into civilian life and to reduce homelessness among vets.

Minnesota's soldier assistance program paid $62,279 to Cass veterans and their dependents in 2016, a 9 percent increase over 2015. Payments for rent/mortgage, utilities, dental, optical and personal needs are based on income and asset restrictions.


The state special needs once in a lifetime grants are not primarily based on income and assets. They cover shelter, catastrophic loss and utilities. National Joint Powers Alliance provided Cass along with other Region 5 counties money to do grave upkeep and headstone repairs for veterans.

Income assistance programs offered to the county's residents include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance designed to stretch a low income family's food budget for nutritious and balanced meals, Diversionary Work Program designed to provide four months of cash while a family joins the workforce and becomes self-sufficient quickly, Minnesota Family Investment Program designed to subsidize income while a family improves their skills to gain employment to work out of poverty, Child Care Assistance Program designed to help pay for child care for working families, General Assistance designed to provide income while a person without children applies for Social Security benefits and Emergency Assistance designed to provide help when something like a utility shut-off threatens health and welfare.

In 2016, Cass County served a monthly average of 1,192 people with family cash programs, 76 with child care assistance, 3,220 with food support, 326 with adult cash programs, 103 with group residential housing, four with emergency programs and 8,506 with medical assistance.

MNSure is one of the county's fastest growing programs, serving 2,403 in 2016, up from 1,078 in 2014 and 2,122 in 2015.

Of those who responded to the county's customer satisfaction survey, service users rated themselves 99.5 percent satisfied with the county's HHVS services.

Those receiving home health services users gave the county 100 percent satisfaction of service, making the county one of less than 10 percent of 1,800 nationwide to achieve that rank. Cass home health service provided 1,573 skilled nursing visits, 130 physical therapy visits, 2,006 home health aide visits, serving 92 clients and traveling 52,780 miles in 2016.

Minnesota Department of Health recognized Cass as offering a breastfeeding friendly workplace after the county added a breastfeeding space in the HHVS building and for promoting breastfeeding.

An average of 619 women, infants and children participate monthly in the county's WIC program. They used $448,058 worth of vouchers to purchase approved foods from local grocers.


Minnesota Vaccines for Children offers free or low cost vaccines for children age 18 or younger and low cost vaccines to qualified adults.

Public health nurses served 577 clients with home visits to high risk pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children. Great Moms Best Babies is a preventive program designed to encourage parents to attach to their babies, prevent child abuse, have healthy pregnancies and keep their children on track developmentally.

When one insurance provider dropped coverage for child car seats, Cass lost most of its ability to provide those to parents in 2016.

Public health nurses saw 80 unduplicated children for child and teen physical exams at clinics at the Walker office and family centers in Pillager, Pine River and Remer. The checkups also can be provided at local medical clinics.

Over 40 volunteer drivers provided transportation for 249 veterans, 1,043 seniors and 835 to others for medical services.

People disposed of 561.83 pounds of outdated and unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medications in 2016 at Take It to the Box collection boxes at the sheriff's office in Walker and city halls in Lake Shore, Pine River and Cass Lake.

The sheriff's office and emergency services board have used a Central Minnesota EMS grant to make Narcan more available here. It is the drug the Legislature authorized for use to counteract the effects of opioid overdoses.

A University of Minnesota Extension educator provided training for Pine River-Backus and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley food service staff on lunchroom techniques to promote health food choices in schools.


The county helped Pillager residents install a fence around their community garden.

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