News Article Details

Nobles County to pursue grant for mental health center

The Daily Globe - 8/12/2018

Aug. 11--WORTHINGTON -- The former KidsPeace Prairie Academy could become a new mental health center if everything falls into place.

When the Minnesota Legislature authorized $30 million last session to establish six regional mental health centers across the state, leaders in Worthington began touting the space, which is part of the Prairie Justice Center on Worthington's north side.

Meridian Health currently occupies one-third of the space, assisting clients who either are or have recently been incarcerated to integrate back into their community. That leaves two-thirds of the pod unused, and that's been the case since KidsPeace closed in October 2008 after 5 1/2 years occupying the space. Due to contractual obligations, KidsPeace continued to pay rent through June 30, 2012, according to Nobles County Administrator Tom Johnson.

Johnson said he, along with Mayor Mike Kuhle and others on the city council and county board, have spoken with local legislators about the idea. The idea was also presented to other legislators during the session.

"We hope in September we'll have the criteria and all of the details on how to apply (for a state grant)," Johnson said. "Based on the legislation, we fit really well."

So far, neither legislators nor representatives from the state's Department of Human Services have come to look at the site.

Renovations will be needed before the space can be used as a mental health center.

"It will have to meet all of the codes in place for a specific subset of care," Johnson said, adding that condition-wise, the building is in great shape. It was just reroofed as part of the overall PJC reroofing project completed earlier this year.

Johnson would like to have a design ready for consideration in the near future, and Avera has already agreed to work on that. Once the design is completed, they will be able to get an estimate of the necessary renovations.

The design will allow for no more than 16 beds, although Johnson said it could be closer to a six- or eight-bed facility.

"There's already a nurse's station that looks adequate," he said. "There's a couple of classrooms that will hopefully need very little work.

"The requirements for space are similar to what's already there," he added.

Johnson said it's in the county's best interest to renovate the space and host a regional mental health center. In addition to fully using space that is currently unoccupied, it provides a service in the county that would save on transportation costs.

"We had to take one person all the way to Wisconsin," Johnson said, adding that if there were beds available locally, it would also result in the addition of several high-level jobs.

It isn't yet known when the sites for the regional centers will be chosen.

Meridian has a year-to-year lease with the county for the space it occupies. If the state chooses the site for a mental health center, Meridian would need to find another space in which to provide their services.

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