Carlton County Board: Successful TXT4Life aims to go statewideCarlton County Commissioners hear that TXT4Life has a hearing at the Capitol this week and take action on a number of issues, including flood loans, milfoil in Chub Lake and more.
Carlton County’s TXT4Life program is making an appearance at the state Capitol this week, when legislators take up a bill to implement and fund a statewide text message suicide prevention program. Essentially, the program picks up where suicide prevention phone lines leave off — meeting young people right where they’re at when it comes to today’s electronic communication.
It works. Since January 2012, the number of texts per month has increased six-fold.
“We have about 400 text conversations per month,” Carlton County Health and Human Services director Dave Lee told the Carlton County Board of Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday morning. “The 800 number was getting between eight and 10 calls a month.”
Lee shared an average per month usage report with the commissioners, noting that kids from 46 counties in Minnesota used the service last year, even though it was initiated to serve seven counties, four tribes and four mental health centers in northeastern Minnesota and isn’t advertised elsewhere.
Counties with the highest average usage rate included Itasca (210 users), Carlton (129), Cass (120), Hennepin (101), Koochiching (83), Crow Wing (58) and Lake (53).
“I want Carlton County kids to have access to this service, but you can see that over 100 kids in Hennepin County [home to Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs] use it [every month on average]. And that’s without any outreach there. Kids just share [the information]. There’s such a demand for it.”
When a young person texts the line for help, a professionally trained volunteer answers the text and participates in the ensuing conversation. Many of them are mental health counselors, social workers or school counselors, and all receive 50 hours of specialized training in order to participate in the program. Depending on the nature of the problem, the caller is often encouraged to seek out additional support in their school or community and talk with someone face to face about their issues.
Lee said it is a “kid-driven process,” with students from each school asked to help identify trusted adults within the schools as additional support resources.
The regional initiative was and still is funded by a federal grant. The statewide initiative, Lee explained, is an effort to be proactive about future funding. If the bill is passed by the
Minnesota State Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton, it would take effect in the next biennium.
In other matters Tuesday, the Board took the following actions:
• Tabled a request to change the pay grade of the Carlton County Public Health and Human Services director.
• Agreed to sign a letter of support for Pioneer Recovery Center to move from Aitkin to Carlton County. Pioneer provides inpatient chemical dependency treatment to women who have trauma in their background.
• Approved an offer for a prospective county engineer candidate.
• Approved Minnesota Investment Fund loans for the following flood-damaged businesses: River Inn in Scanlon, $214,000; Johnson Photography in Thomson, $47,000; Spring Fresh Garden Center in Moose Lake, $13,857 and Lampert Lumber in Moose Lake, $178,000. The loans come from the $1.8 million in state funding set aside for commercial flood victims, explained Pat Oman, county economic development director. The loans are zero percent interest and 50 percent forgivable after 10 years.
• Approved release of a $500 grant to the Chub Lake Association for ongoing efforts to combat the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil plants, which were discovered in the lake near Carlton in 2009. Association President Dave Beal told the commissioners that the group used both chemical and biological controls to treat the 116-acre lake.
“We introduced between 11,000 and 12,000 weevils into the lake last summer [as a biological control],” Beal said. “A survey indicated that we had a 2.6-times reduction in the density of the milfoil by the beach and a seven-times reduction by the bay, both areas where the weevils were used. We think weevils are the way to go.”
However, he noted, the milfoil continues to grow in the lake, particularly on the east shore. And, while the weevils were effective, Beal said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wouldn’t allow the group to transfer $4,200 of DNR funds from chemical to biological control.
“The reason was because biological control is not as reliable as chemical in all instances,” he said, noting that the weevils have to be released before the milfoil flowers, something that didn’t happen farther south in Minnesota last year. “They can’t guarantee it will work everywhere.”
The group is also planning to put signage up around the lake and hold an educational inspection in the spring.