Advisory throws support behind crisis center

by HANNAH BROADBENT
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Former Ridgeview Medical Center CEO Robert Stevens said in published works that the center saw just last year, 3,000 patients were seen in the emergency room for a mental health diagnosis. That number is significantly up from the 900 seen in 2012.

This is why Ridgeview proposed a mental health crisis center to replace the Marie Steiner Kelting Hospice Home, in northern Chaska which closed in June due to lack of funding.

The crisis center would have 12 rooms and could potentially solve the problem of residents going as far away as Rochester and Mankato to seek treatment – which are the closest centers. Lisa Gjerde and Noah McCourt are two of nine members on the Carver County Mental Health Advisory Council and express their support for the proposal.

Gjerde is the chair of the council and has been involved for eight years now. She says their job is to advise the board of commissioners on mental health issues in Carver County.

“We look at a lot of different topics, like lack of transportation and beds as well as crisis intervention with law enforcement in the county,” she said.

Gjerde said she believes Ridgeview knew there was a demand for the center. She said patients can sit in the ER for days before a bed becomes available somewhere.

“We’ve had a need for a crisis facility for a long time – sometimes residents are even going across state lines for help,” McCourt said.

The proposal by the council asking for support states: “An estimated 20 percent of adults will be diagnosed with mental illness in a given year, Carver County has had to transport its residents long distances for mental health crisis care and has had a long term need for a mental health crisis facility – the CCMHAC is tasked with assessing the need for services in the county and reporting the results to the county board of commissioners.”

Lisa says in the upcoming months the council hopes to address misconceptions that residents in Carver County have about mental health. She said she knows people worry about the safety of others, but they shouldn’t.

“Those people in crisis need a safe place to come out of it,” she said.

McCourt said Carver County has gotten a lot better about looking at mental health in the county but they still have a long way to go. He believes this is an opportunity to bring education into schools and the out in the community.

“The county is always putting out the fire, a focus should be made on preventative care,” he said.
McCourt and commissioner Randy Maluchnik held a townhall meeting in Waconia last week to discuss the center. McCourt hopes that this is the first of many.

“The goal was to educate the neighborhoods on what the benefit of having the center is,” he said. ‘We hope to have one for Chaska and Victoria residents.”

McCourt and Lisa said a huge benefit is that patients and their families will be able to stay closer to home. McCourt said another benefit is that the center would be able to utilize other community services as well.

“We want to provide services and our community and let those affected know we support them,” McCourt said. “This is an opportunity to do that.

Chaska City Council has three options according to published sources: allowing Ridgeview to continue with their plan; buying the land and facility from Ridgeview; or having the center sell the land to another entity.

The advisory council meets the second Tuesday of every month in the 1st street center in Waconia from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will also be a community listening session on October 12.