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Beltrami County Board hears testimonials about Hope House services

Staff and clients of Hope House in Bemidji gave testimonials to Beltrami County commissioners Tuesday during a county board work session.

Hope House Executive Director Robin Wold requested the opportunity for clients to describe the services they use and the impact the 2011 state government shutdown had on their recovery.

Hope House provides community support services to individuals with serious and persistent metal illness so they can live in the community in the least restrictive settings, function at their best level and reduce the need for involuntary hospitalization.

Clients gave only their first names as they addressed commissioners. A woman named Lori spoke about how Hope House improved her life.

"It was really enjoyable to be able to work and not be labeled as crazy," Lori said. "I'm very comfortable at Hope House. The education of mental illness is very important."

Hope House serves about 150 people a year. The state government shutdown in 2011 prevented people with mental illness from getting support at Hope House.

Clients at Hope House had to visit hospitals for their needs during the shutdown. Hospital days leaped from 195 days in 2010 to 534 days in 2011. The hospital cost to taxpayers for 534 client days was more than $598,000. The total budget for the Hope House was $496,000 in 2011.

Commissioner Jack Frost said that the services provided by Hope House are helpful at come at a low cost to taxpayers.

"These kinds of services save money," Frost said. "I applaud you for what you do at Hope House."

Commissioner Joe Vene said that measures need to be taken to ensure places like Hope House continue to operate.

"We need to keep the pressure on the state legislature," Vene said. "When there was a shutdown, the needs didn't go away. We can never allow the state of Minnesota not to answer their phones again."

The board of commissioners also received an update of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's upcoming road construction program. District State Aid Engineer Loud Tasa presented the information.

MnDOT and consultants will prepare a county road safety plan for Beltrami County. The process will review information specific to the Beltrami County road network and identify opportunities to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes.

Also at the meeting, Randy Bodensteiner provided an overview of the Northwest Minnesota Household Hazardous Waste Program and George Swentik updated the board on the Giziibii Resource Conservation and Development Association.

At the county board's regular meeting, commissioners passed a motion to interview 11 applicants who applied for three vacant positions on the Beltrami County Park and Trail Advisory Council.

Commissioner Vene made a motion to encumber any costs or preliminary renderings of a new veteran's home in Bemidji, seconded by Frost.

"This is a pivotal point in there being a veterans home in Bemidji," Vene said. "It is my hope and belief that we here will see a veteran's home in Bemidji."