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County Commissioner Report: New solutions needed for mental health treatment costs

The Kenyon Leader - 3/7/2017

February was a busy month at the county. First we took a good look at the building codes that are in place for Goodhue County. This was something I wanted to address because housing is getting so expensive to build, and the building code is a portion of the increased costs to build housing.

In summary, the state of Minnesota passed a law in 2008 that stated that everybody had to use the state building code, so we are pretty much stuck. I have promoted the issue up to our local legislators to see if we can get local control back.

The next big issue was the proposed hog farm in Zumbrota Township. I voted in favor because I put a lot of weight in what the local township board had voted, and also from what I could best tell they met all the county zoning requirements. We did add some extra requirements for a landscape buffer to help reduce odor some more.

Other items of interest:

I attended a meeting about a possible broadband grant from the state of Minnesota. Pretty much everybody in my district is underserved in terms of internet speeds and capacity. This is a larger issue for Wanamingo and Dennison, and Kenyon and Pine Island to a little lesser extent. These grants have to be applied for in July.

At the county level, we are going to try and partner with the local internet and cable providers to see if we can get some of this money. The program has not been renewed for 2017 yet, but it sounds like the governor and Legislature are on board with it, so we want to be ready.

The last big issue is that we are seeing very large costs to the taxpayer for mental health treatment. The state changed the way it helps pay for it to zero percent. We had a $1 million expense in 2016 for a handful of people. We are working with our legislators and trying to think out of the box on a way to handle these costs and still deliver proper treatment to these Goodhue County individuals. This is an issue that is projected to grow in the future.

I voted 'no' on a new employee that was proposed to be added to the Health and Human Services Department. I felt the position needed more research to determine how much reimbursement we would get from the state. We are seeing increased costs in a lot of areas, with more residents needing services and more interactions of residents with the Sheriff's Department in regards to drugs. Instead of adding more county employees, I believe we should look for root causes instead of just putting Band-Aids on the problems.

 
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