10/25/2018 3:25:00 PM County Board hears from Mental Health Initiative
by DENISE MARTIN A coordinator for the multi-county Minnesota Adult Mental Health Initiative came before the Chisago County Board last week, providing an update on services and programming, and the initiative’s current planning focus.
Natalie Matthewson said the Adult Mental Health Initiative (AMHI) is one of 18 regional efforts in Minnesota, funded to create mental health partnerships and directed to come up with plans for reducing stigma and connecting people who have mental health issues with those who provide services. The AMHI in east central Minnesota has $2 million for 2018, she said.
Discussion groups are underway in the region to learn more about what’s needed. The first meeting was in Hinckley, October 22. The 7E region discussions continue in Mille Lacs Nov. 5; in Braham Nov. 19 and in North Branch December 4. Matthewson said the public is encouraged to come and share any ideas that could improve their experience in the mental health system.
As for the housing aspect of the AMHI big picture, the “Willow Grove” apartments-offering on-site supervision and centralized services, is behind schedule. The groundbreaking was set for this fall, but is pushed back to spring 2019, Matthewson explained.
“Willow Grove” is in North Branch, south of Hwy 95 and east of the freeway-- and involves new construction of 20 housing units with seven set aside for chornic homeless persons.
Residents will have persistent mental illness and are recommended by social workers. They will have demonstrated they are more independent and should also be working on employment or job skills while they are in the housing.
The City of North Branch has been working with the AMHI and state to first qualify the project for special funding streams and to address local zoning and infrastructure needs to accomodate this project.
Matthewson told the Board (minus Commissioner Lora Walker who was absent) that the housing need is well documented and “Willow Grove” will be fully occupied the day it opens.
Also; when the new Chisago County Jail was constructed, Matthewson said, there was office and holding space included to run a “yellow line” style program.
The “yellow line” is an actual line painted on the intake floor of the jail. It’s supposed to symbolically facilitate a practice where incoming inmates get assessed by trained personnel and may be diverted into mental health services if appropriate. If they don’t cross the yellow line they avoid being booked and being incarcerated. The goal is for them to access the mental health services better suited to their circumstances.
Matthewson agreed with the commissioners; who see that with the closure of state hospitals-- jails are now where law enforcement take many people who are disorderly, loitering or who have symptoms that escalate into a criminal situation.
In Chisago County lack of funding for implementing the yellow line is the hold-up. Chisago County HHS and law enforcement staff are enthusiastic to see this launched, County Board Chair George McMahon told Matthewson.
County Administrator Bruce Messelt commented that AMHI needs to put Chisago at the top of the Region 7 new program list when a yellow line budget gets funded. “It seems to me we would be a good pilot project,” said Messelt.
Other advancements put in motion through the AMHI process regionally: drop-in sites with Chisago City Maranatha Church, Wednesdays are the closest.
The Local Advisory Councils are also meeting at the drop-in locations, making those sessions more publically accessible.
Matthewson also stressed the crisis line for emergency mental health concerns is open 1-800-523-3333 and you can text MN to 741741 in case of crisis.