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Northern Minnesota Addiction Wellness Center provides inpatient treatment, addiction recovery resources

The 32-bed Northern Minnesota Addiction Wellness Center opened last April. It provides inpatient residential treatment services, as well as peer support for long-term recovery. Typically a client will spend 45 to 90 days at the center.

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KP Selzler and Margot Kelsey talk about their work with the Northern Minnesota Addiction Wellness Center. “This is about building a health system for our community so we can rise above where we are right now with all this addiction.," Kelsey says. (Dennis Doeden / Bemidji Pioneer)
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WILTON -- For the executive team at the Northern Minnesota Addiction Wellness Center, their work is personal.

Quite personal.

  • Margot Kelsey is the president and chief executive officer of the 10-month-old facility located just north of U.S. Highway 2 in Wilton. She has been in recovery from alcohol addiction for eight years.

  • KP Selzler is the chief operating officer. He has been in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction for five years and two months.

  • Chuck Meyers is the chief financial officer. His daughter died of a heroin overdose nearly five years ago.

  • Michael Kelsey is the vice president and secretary. He has been in recovery from alcohol addiction for three years and two weeks.

The 32-bed center opened last April. It provides inpatient residential treatment services, as well as peer support for long-term recovery. Typically a client will spend 45 to 90 days at the center. Payments come from the state, insurance companies or the clients themselves. In addition, the organization offers outpatient treatment and counseling at a downtown Bemidji location.
There are 37 employees, most of whom are also in recovery from addiction.

Margot Kelsey and Selzler, her significant other, are licensed addiction counselors. Meyers, a retired international insurance executive, handles financial matters. Michael Kelsey, a retired jewelry store owner and Margot’s father, spends time helping clients with programming like yoga, art and music.

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“We were getting phone calls from all over the country looking for beds for inpatient treatment,” said Margot Kelsey, president and CEO of the Northern Minnesota Addiction Wellness Center. The center has been in operation since last April. (Dennis Doeden / Bemidji Pioneer)

“Addiction is the disease; recovery is the choice,” Margot Kelsey said. “This is about building a health system for our community so we can rise above where we are right now with all this addiction. All of the violence, all of the trauma, all these things are directly attached to addiction.”

The idea for the center came to Margot a few years ago when she was executive director at the Bemidji branch of Face It Together, a recovery program.

“We were getting phone calls from all over the country looking for beds for inpatient treatment,” she said. “We couldn’t get people in on the other side of that. We were trying to help them facilitate their recovery journey. It was also shocking to me that 75% of treatment centers are the 30-day, 12-step model. The 12 steps was never supposed to be a treatment model.”

Both Margot and Selzler both came into recovery from Alcoholics Anonymous, so they understand the importance of the 12-step program.

“AA saved my life,” Margot said. “I know it saved (KP’s) life. But the whole point is when you do your fourth and fifth steps, (Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Step 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.) that’s what you’ll relapse on. When you stir the demons up and then don’t put them back to bed, that’s what you do. You take somebody out of chaos, make them stir up all their demons, and then you throw them back into chaos without any help. That doesn’t make sense. So we really started to research and look for another model for treatment.”

Margot and KP both worked at Face It Together, a Bemidji nonprofit that opened in 2016.

“I still have a great relationship with Face It Together,” Margot said. “We both do. It was a great education for us. It actually helped me figure out a whole new business model.”

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She credited Bemidji businessman Mitch Rautio with helping get the center going. He was the first person Margot contacted about the dream, and Rautio stepped up. He purchased the land and built the facility, leasing it to the center.

“Margot wanted to make a difference, and where she really needed to make a difference was with overnight stays to really help people,” Rautio said. “We all need to do our part. These addictions are not in any one generation or any one race, creed, color or anything. It’s everybody, and I was all in.”

Selzler said a main goal is to teach clients life skills so they are better prepared to succeed once they leave the center.

“When I got older is when I got into addiction,” he said, “and being an adult wasn’t even in my wheelhouse. So we teach adulting here. When you leave here you’re going to go get a job, and you can’t just show up half an hour late for your job; you’ll get fired.”

Although Meyers does not work directly with the center’s clients, he certainly understands the impact of addiction. His daughter, Sarah, overdosed and died in April 2016.

“She was a tough kid,” Meyers said. “We adopted her when she was 3 from Korea. She was abandoned on the streets of Korea by her mother at a very early age. She didn’t have a birth certificate. I now realize how important those first two or three years are for a kid, because despite hundreds and hundreds of hours of counseling and working with her, she was never a happy camper. I suppose it’s not surprising that it ended that way, but we sure thought we were doing everything.”

Now Meyers is doing everything he can to make sure the center succeeds.

“I just couldn’t not be involved,” he said. “I don’t sit still very easily.”

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Michael Kelsey is well known in the community for his jewelry design. He and his wife, Pamela, ran Kelsey’s As You Like It jewelry store in downtown Bemidji before retiring four years ago. The Kelseys fully supported their daughter’s vision, and Michael finds joy in working with the center’s clients.

“I am having a ball,” he said. “I love to teach.”

Whether he is leading yoga, teaching art or playing music, Michael still focuses on the task at hand.

“I used that as a vehicle to actually talk to them and listen to them,” he said. “Listening is a big part of it. Once they get to know you and see that you’re not full of B.S. … you just have fun with them. It takes time. It takes a week for people to unfold a little bit, because they come here pretty folded up. Things haven’t gone their way. They’re scared. But they just blossom. It’s really fun. They can be successful.”

As the center nears the end of its first year, Margot is encouraged by those success stories.

“They don’t walk out of here and graduate successfully without a plan,” she said. “They have housing established. If we don’t have the basic needs met, how are we ever going to get to recovery, let alone self actualization? We get them into the programs. We want to continue with them in outpatient, either ours or a different program. But we’ve found that if we actually have a yearlong engagement with people in a treatment setting of some sort, the likelihood of staying in recovery goes up significantly. If you can hit a year in recovery, your chances of staying in recovery go up 80%.”

That’s a number all four of the center’s executive team members can live with.

Dennis Doeden, former publisher of the Bemidji Pioneer, is a feature reporter. He is a graduate of Metropolitan State University with a degree in Communications Management.
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