$184,500 grant will fuel team of mental health pros

Otter Tail County Commissioner John Lindquist of Dalton said a new program to help children with serious emotional disturbances, before more serious problems develop, is the correct preventative step to take. 

Lindquist made this statement on Jan. 29 after the county board approved a program to assist children and their families experiencing behavioral health disorders.

Otter Tail County and three adjoining counties (Clay, Grant and Pope) will receive a grant of $184,500 as start-up costs for a three-year grant period.

“The four county human service departments will utilize up to $916,826 of budgeted out-of-home-placement funds to partially fund the services,” Lindquist noted.

Clay County includes Moorhead, Elbow Lake is in Grant County and Pope County includes the city of Glenwood.

“This new program, to help children with serious emotional disturbances, has a blueprint to follow,” Lindquist said. “This same approach has been used by the DWI Court program that provides counseling and positive reinforcement to people convicted of DWIs.”

Otter Tail County and the three adjoining counties, with the new initiative to assist children with mental health disorders, will make use of three teams of mental health professionals. The lead provider will be Fergus Falls-based Lakeland Mental Health Center.

“With this new program we’ll get out front of a problem and hopefully prevent more serious and more costly situations down the road,” Lindquist said.

He said that other expenses during the three-year grant period could be covered by various health insurance coverages. Otter Tail County Administrator John Dinsmore is looking into the insurance possibility.

“We’ll have integrated mental health interventions that combine rigorous targeted case management and intensive community-based therapeutic services,” said Deb Sjostrom, human services director for Otter Tail County.

Sjostrom said that program activities for children will include individual therapy, family therapy and targeted case management services.

Initially, up to 120 children and their families will be served.

“We have a good track record with the DWI Court program,” Lindquist said. “I see no reason why positive outcomes won’t also be realized with this new program to help children with serious emotional disturbances.” 

Success of the DWI Court is a collaborative effort among county human services employees, the County Sheriff Office, area police departments, county probation employees, Court Administration and the County Attorney Office.

Quarterly reports will be issued after the program to help children with serious emotional disturbances gets off the ground.

These reports will include outcomes of the program in terms of lengths of placement, recidivism, successes experienced by families, and other measures identified by program coordinators.

“We’ll also communicate with the general public about outcomes, barriers, and funding issues,” Lindquist added.