It’s been three months since those in long-term care facilities or other skilled nursing settings first began spending most of their time isolated from outside contact in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Some of those residents have access to technology to assist in maintaining contact with friends and family members, but many do not. A grant sought by Crow Wing County Community Services would outfit as many as 15 such facilities in the county with new iPads.

“Our long-term care (LTC) residents are not just from (Crow Wing County),” the application stated. “We have residents who are from each of the other counties in the region. This money will help to purchase iPads to help those residents, regardless of home or family member location, stay connected.”

The Crow Wing County Board approved a resolution Tuesday, June 9, supporting the grant application to Sourcewell as part of its COVID-19 Relief Partnership Emergency Funding program. If awarded, the grant would provide $10,000 for purchasing iPads.

No one knows how long safety precautions including suspension of visitation and communal dining will remain in place, particularly given the disproportionate impact of the virus on those who are older, and particularly those living in congregate care facilities. Of the 1,249 deaths due to the coronavirus recorded in Minnesota, 994 were people who resided in long-term care or assisted living facilities.

“They’re feeling disconnected and isolated,” said Tami Lueck, Crow Wing County adult services supervisor. “ … We don’t know at what point those kinds of measures will be lifted. There is discussions around phased approaches to that and how we’ll get to that. But again, we know this is going to be for awhile.”

Lueck said this project could be one of the ways to help reduce feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety in residents, who are more dependent than ever on social contact and relationships with facility staff.

“The staff at these facilities, I think we should give them credit for the relationships and the contact they’re providing to these residents. That, too, shows how important that is,” she said.

Beyond offering the technology to improve connections with friends and family, Lueck said increasing access to iPads would provide opportunities such as Zoom-based support groups, virtual tours of destinations such as the Grand Canyon, exercise programs, the use of apps to play games socially and more.

In other business, the county board:

Approved a grant application on behalf of BLADE, or Brainerd Lakes Area Drug Education, for COVID-19 Relief Partnership Emergency Funding from Sourcewell. If awarded, the grant would support promotion of the group’s virtual gatherings.

“Typically, our group meets monthly and we discuss a range of topics related to educating youth on better choices, educating the public on substance use and addiction, and helping to support those who are trying to become/remain sober,” the request for board action prepared by Community Services Director Kara Terry stated. “We have not been able to meet recently due to COVID but are looking to ramp up again with a community event in June via YouTube live.”

Entered a cooperative agreement with the state for realignment of the Paul Bunyan State Trail as part of the 2021 County Highway 13 reconstruction project. The state trail will be realigned near the intersection of the highway with Clark Lake Dam Road for safety purposes.

Approved the vacation of a portion of County Road 112 removed from service in conjunction with the Highway 371 reconstruction project in 2017-18. Vacating the road segment “will remove any county interest/liability over the affected area, and will clear up any confusion of the allowed uses and the status of the property for the adjacent underlying fee owners,” according to the resolution.

Supported a new premises gambling permit application by the Brainerd American Legion at Dunmire’s Bar & Grill, Oak Lawn Township.

Approved the cancellation of a number of tax-forfeited land contracts with purchasers for missed payments and/or unpaid taxes.

Approved 2020 liquor licenses for on- and off-sale establishments in Crow Wing County townships.

Approved the hiring of the following people: Erica Stepanek, technical support intern, information technology; Zachary Sjodin, business intelligence intern, IT; Connor Plagge, geographic information systems intern, IT; Hannah Veith, court deputy, sheriff’s office; Kevin Wiest, recreation assistant, sheriff’s office; and Nick Lossow, recreation assistant, sheriff’s office.

Accepted the departures of the following employees: Tyler Winkels, corrections officer, jail; Darlla Hurrle, corrections officer, jail; and Steve Huttner, engineering aide, highway department. Replacement staffing was approved for all three positions.



CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.