County officials ‘blindsided’ by decision to move chemical addiction recovery programIt seems most everyone was caught by surprise when word went out last Friday that the Department of Human Services Chemical Addiction Recovery Enterprise program in Carlton (formerly known as Liberalis) had decided to pull up stakes and move to Brainerd.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
It seems most everyone was caught by surprise when word went out last Friday that the Department of Human Services Chemical Addiction Recovery Enterprise program in Carlton (formerly known as Liberalis) had decided to pull up stakes and move to Brainerd.
During discussion at Tuesday’s meeting of the Carlton County Board, Health and Human Services Director Dave Lee said he was as startled by the announcement as everyone else.
“We were blindsided by it,” said Lee. “As far as I’m concerned, this dialogue hasn’t even gotten started. Our contract negotiations have been under way with them for months now.”
Lee wasn’t the only one. Carlton County Economic Development Director Pat Oman told commissioners that State Senator Tony Lourey, who represents the district in which the program operates, was also reportedly left in the dark until announcement of the program’s pending departure was made public last Friday.
“Senator Lourey said he was very displeased that he was not informed in advance of the decision,” said Oman, “though he admitted there’s not much that can be done about it from a legislative standpoint.”
The decision to close the program came just as clients were ready to relocate to the facility following cleanup from an earlier water pipe break that caused considerable damage. The clients, who were being treated at a similar facility in Brainerd, will reportedly now stay at that facility instead of returning to Carlton. The move, which will displace 31 full- and part-time workers from their jobs, was allegedly a cost-savings measure for the state, since the building that housed the program in Carlton was leased from a private owner, while the building that houses the Brainerd program is owned by the state.
“I believe the thinking is that the profit margin would be greater in a state-owned building,” state Pam Brumfeld of the Carlton County Human Services Department.
County commissioners were not content to allow the decision to move the only all-woman chemical dependency program in the state from Carlton without a fight, however.
“I want to go on record as stating we will work with the state to keep that program here, just as we have in the past,” said Commissioner Ted Pihlman, who made a motion to send a letter lobbying for the retention of the program in Carlton to legislators and the Minnesota State Department of Human Services, along with soliciting neighboring counties for their support as well.
Pihlman said the count has done more than its part to keep the program in the county in the past, pointing to the fact that an economic development loan was granted to Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet to upgrade its third floor in order to house the program after it was transferred from Moose Lake. Later, after the hospital needed to make use of that space for its own purposes, the county provided the state of Minnesota with an outright grant of $40,000 to upgrade the former Carlton Nursing Home facility to house the program.
Commissioner Tom Proulx posed the question, “Could this be an opportunity for the county to start some similar type of program of its own?”
Lee said that many more questions would have to be answered before that could happen, but he reiterated that the need is most definitely there. Brumfeld explained that any county in the state can place clients in the chemical dependency program in Carlton, and many come from the surrounding areas.
“I think it would be a handicap for people from places such as Cook County to have family members housed all the way over in Brainerd,” stated Commissioner Marvin Bodie. “I think we should bring those other counties in the area in on this to try to solicit their support as well.”