From Otter Tail County 

Otter Tail County Commissioners will continue to fund a very important program that serves young people in the area. Otter Tail County Probation and Human Services Departments make referrals to the Strong Teens Program which is offered through Solutions Behavioral Healthcare Professionals. The program is aimed at both prevention and early intervention for at-risk youth.  

Solutions Behavioral Healthcare Professionals is a non-profit agency serving the mental health needs of the region, including Otter Tail County. Solutions has an office in Fergus Falls that partners with the county to provide the Strong Teens Program. 

“The goal for the Otter Tail County Probation and Human Services Departments is to divert at risk kids from going into out-of-home services or deeper end services,” stated Deb Sjostrom, Human Services Director.

The program is designed to teach social and emotional skills, promote resilience, strengthen assets and increase coping skills for males and females ages 13 – 17.  There are three 12-week sessions each year. One of the twelve lessons promotes awareness of strategies for resolving conflict. Conflict can be one of the triggers for depression, anxiety, and negative thinking. Learning effective ways to resolve conflicts can help teens to avoid emotional and social problems. 

Angie Renner, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, and Luke Voorhees, Mental Health Practitioner, from Solutions spoke to the Board of Commissioners about the importance of the program and the positive impact it has in the community. 

“If one or two students can use the program going forward in their life then we are a success,” said Renner. 

Desta Lutzwick, Probation Director, shared recent data with the board. The Probation Department referred 31 of the 36 referrals to the program. Ten teens graduated and the post-test scores increased with 90% of the graduates.

 A recent graduate said that she has “learned to be nonreactive in difficult situations where there is conflict.” It was reported that in a group setting a peer took her chair and she was completely non-reactive and did not say anything and sat in another chair. The counselors build upon these successes throughout the 12 weeks. 

County Board Chair, Doug Huebsch, finds value in the program and supports its funding because “prevention is (costs) seven times less than out-of-home placement.” The board voted to continue to fund the Strong Teens Program for 2019.