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Filling the gaps: New mental health, detox center to meet needs

Vicki Roff, manager of the Sanford Health Residential Support Center, shows a room at the Sanford Health Residential Support Center looks like during a tour on Wednesday. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- After years of advocating, negotiating partnerships and construction, Bemidji's newest health treatment facility is ready to open.

On Thursday, health officials, stakeholders and project proponents will celebrate the completion of the Sanford Health PrimeWest Residential Support Center. The facility, set to come online over the first two weeks of July, will offer 14 beds to patients in three areas.

One section of the 6,800 square-foot building will be specifically dedicated to detox treatment with four beds. The other section of the facility, located at 3124 Hannah Ave. NW, will be centered on mental health, with five beds for patients in crisis and another five for those needing intensive residential treatment services.

"The four beds in the detox section will always stay at four," said Jay Coughenour, senior director of Sanford's behavioral health in northern Minnesota. "The other 10 beds can fluctuate with different levels of care going from one to another. At one time there may be three in crisis and seven in IRTS."

According to Coughenour, patients in crisis are referred to the facility by Sanford's Mobile Crisis Response Services teams. Crisis patients are able to stay three to 10 days at the facility, where they can receive illness management, skills training, stabilization and discharge planning to restore functioning levels.


The IRTS beds, meanwhile, is a residential option up to 90 days for those at risk of functional deterioration and need assistance from mental health staff. Coughenour said individuals can sign up for IRTS through a referral packet.

For detox, the stay is 72 hours, and patients must be medically cleared before they can go to the center. In this section, patients will receive an individualized treatment plan, referrals for counseling, and nursing services and monitoring throughout the detox phase.

"Theoretically, law enforcement could pick someone up, bring them to an emergency department, and once they're cleared they can be brought here," Coughenour said. "Medical assisted treatment won't be offered here, but hopefully, for those in detox, we'll be a front door to additional services they need, and we can serve as that link."

The detox section of the building won't open until Jan. 1, 2020, though, as Sanford works to recruit staffing to the facility. In total, the staff is expected to reach 24.

When the final piece of the center does open, though, officials hope it will meet a need unmet in the community for too long.

"It's a culmination of several years of work, and pulling in partners to figure out how we can address what was initially a jail diversion issue," Beltrami County Administrator Kay Mack said. "We figured we would have to address the gaps in the community, and we found nothing but gaps."

In 2017, Mack said discussions began with PrimeWest Health, which previously owned the building, about using the facility as a new health center. In 2018, PrimeWest donated the building, worth $800,000, to the county.

A year before those discussions began, in 2016, the Minnesota Legislature approved $2 million for Beltrami County for investment in mental health treatment programs. After acquiring the building, the county invested $1.2 million of the state funding into the building, which it leases to Sanford Health for $1. As the lease holder, Sanford Health has invested $1.5 million in the center.


"The most important part of it for me is it keeps people home," Coughenour said. "Services are provided in their community, and it can create a better continuity of their support."

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