Community Services Building provides ‘a mall of services’
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Are you interested in learning infant massage? Are your elderly parents in need of foot care? Would you like to become a licensed day care or foster care provider? Is your car registration or driver’s license due for renewal? Do you want to update your resume or try an online job search? Are your computer skills in need of an upgrade?
All of these services and more are available at the new Carlton County Community Services Building in downtown Cloquet, though many people still don’t have much of an idea just what goes on there.
In an effort to better educate the public on what services are offered, area media outlets were introduced to the recently opened building and the services under its roof during a special media event last Monday, Nov. 21.
On hand to welcome participants was County Coordinator Dennis Genereau, who explained that the 40,000-square-foot building consolidates services previously housed in seven different buildings and provides a “continuum of care” for many county residents.
Agencies with offices in the new building include Carlton County Public Health and Human Services, the Carlton County Veterans Service Office, the Motor Vehicle Office, the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe/Tribal Employment Programs.
Representatives of each agency spoke at the open house and explained some of the services offered in their particular areas.
Veterans Service Officer Duane Brownie explained that his office, formerly housed at the courthouse, provides assistance and support to veterans and their dependents in obtaining benefits through county, state and federal programs. Office staff also acts as advocates on veterans’ behalf and assist with submitting the correct paperwork to establish, increase or maintain proven benefits or disabilities.
“This [new building] is a superb atmosphere for us,” said Brownie, indicating that the Veterans Service Office has already seen an increased workload due to exposure to more people who are accessing other services offered in the building.
Candis McQueen of the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training explained that the office actually houses four agencies all together, offering employment support for people ages 14 and up through one-on-one assistance in job searches and career training.
“It’s kind of a mall of services,” she said.
As the director of one of the agencies housed under that umbrella, Sonia Vinnes of Vocational Rehabilitation Services said her department offers employment services for those with disabilities, as well as career counseling, training options and job placement assistance.
Speaking on behalf of the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, Cindy Slater said that agency represents seven counties and provides employment training, self-sufficiency or “supportive work” programs for those enrolled in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or the Diversionary Work Program. The agency also offers a “Lives in Transition” program for displaced homemakers and works with ex-offenders in job application skills.
Barbara Kennebeck of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe/Tribal Employment Programs said her agency works with enrollees on the Fond du Lac Reservation and in surrounding counties who are on the MFIP or Diversionary Work programs and assists with job searches, employment and school and educational opportunities.
The Public Health and Human Services component of the new building includes such programs as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), services to the elderly, disabilities services and adult foster care, adult protection and chemical and mental health services, financial and medical assistance, family social services, children’s mental health and family school support workers and child support and collections. The county is also currently participating in a two-year pilot program known as Intensive Community Services that provides intensive rehabilitation services to adults with a serious psychotic mental illness and significant functional deficits. Services cover a broad range of counseling, from interpersonal communication skills and crisis assistance to chemical abuse/dependency issues and budgeting and shopping skills.
Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Health and Human Services, explained the rationale behind the building itself, saying that the county tried for a long time to find ways to provide better service to the public and greater ease of use.
“Most folks who come here are already dealing with a number of stressors,” Lee said, “so we wanted to try to pull together as many services as possible under one roof and make it as easy as possible for the users.”
Lee said the new building was designed to house all of these services as well as to adapt to the future needs of the county.
“We are moving into an era where the lines are becoming blurred between services,” Lee summed up, “and there is need for more collaboration.”
The Community Services Building now houses 145 of the county’s 305 employees. The Workforce Center, which rents space from the county, employs 10 at its new office, and the Veterans Service Office employs three.