Dakota County officials will hear feedback on a proposed mental health crisis and recovery center in West St. Paul during a community engagement meeting on Thursday. West St. Paul City Council will vote on the project Dec. 12.
Some residents have expressed concerns about the neighborhood’s transparency and safety after learning more about the project in recent weeks.
Owned by Dakota County and operated by mental health service provider Guild, the proposed facility would provide 16 acute and short-term mental health care beds at 1740 Livingston Avenue.
If approved by the West St. Paul City Council, it will be up to the Dakota County Board to discuss and vote on the future of the project. The public funding stream for the project requires the new facility to be operational by the end of 2024.
The proposed center
The proposed center intends to replace Guild South Services in South St. Paul, which operates out of three homes that lack accessibility and privacy, said Emily Schug, assistant director of social services for Dakota County.
The new location would be designed in the same way as Guild’s existing crisis and recovery center in Savage, providing clients with individual bedrooms and bathrooms and creating a “quiet, warm and welcoming environment that will not further traumatize clients”. people,” according to the Dakota County website.
The center, unlike the Savage facility, would also offer on-site assessments and support for anyone seeking mental health services.
Clients are admitted on a voluntary basis through Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS) or Residential Crisis Services (CRS). Those in IRTS can stay for up to 90 days and receive a treatment and recovery plan to avoid hospitalization and eventually return to independent living, while CRS is for people in mental health crisis who need a place to stabilize for up to 10 days.
While Schug said the total cost of the project remains undetermined, $3.4 million will come from state bonding, $2.5 million from Dakota County U.S. bailout funding, $1.5 million dollars from other state funding and $750,000 from partner contributions, according to the county’s website.
Mark Drake, who lives about 500 feet from the proposed location of the crisis and recovery center, said he heard about the proposed facility two weeks ago from one of his neighbors and believes the county has does a poor job of communicating the development of the project.
As required by a city ordinance, letters with information about the project were sent to those who lived 350 feet or closer to the location of the proposed facility, according to West Council Member Julie Eastman. St. Paul. Drake said the lack of communication about the proposed facility to those living outside that border signals a lack of transparency from those developing the project.
“It’s quite surprising and quite disheartening that the city and county have only done the bare minimum here in terms of notice,” Drake said. “I clearly think it was by design, which is disappointing.”
Eastman said the city and county of Dakota also posted information about community engagement events on social media. However, after hearing feedback from residents, she said in the future, the city may pursue other strategies to notify residents of important projects.
Residents of West St. Paul, including Drake, have come forward at recent project meetings to express concerns about potential safety risks to people living near the proposed facility if the project proceeds. Drake said he and other West St. Paul residents feel uncomfortable with the facility’s potential welcome of guests with serious mental health issues or criminal histories.
“Everyone in the neighborhood has great compassion for people with serious mental illness,” Drake said. “But when people are off their meds and people are in crisis, they often don’t think clearly. So it’s a concern when we have frail elderly people and a lot of young children in the neighborhood.
Guild CEO Julie Bluhm said people are not admitted to their mental health facilities if they are deemed dangerous to themselves or others. She said Guild is working with local authorities to ensure they follow all necessary laws when admitting people with criminal backgrounds to their mental health facilities.
“We believe our community is safer when everyone gets the help and services they need when they need them,” Bluhm said. “When someone comes to see us, our clinical staff have to ask, ‘Is this person safe to be in our therapeutic environment, around other clients?'”
Drake also expressed concern about Guild’s conduct after learning of a lawsuit filed last year against the company by a former employee, who claimed she had been told to continue working with a customer after threatening and harassing her. The lawsuit was settled, and Bluhm said the situation was corrected within four days of the incident.
Drake helped other West St. Paul residents create a website to voice their concerns about the proposed facility.
Thursday’s meeting with Dakota County officials and Guild representatives will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the North Dakota County Service Center in West St. Paul.
For up-to-date information on the proposed facility and project discussion meetings, visit the project webpage.
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