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Stevens Co. Human Services sees "uptick" in assistance requests

MORRIS -- Stevens County spent about $791,400 for social service programs in 2012, Stevens County Human Services Director Joanie Murphy told the Stevens County Board of Commissioners during her annual update on Tuesday.

This figure does not include money used for income maintenance, which Murphy said is primarily money that passes through the county from the federal and state governments. None of the money for these program comes from county levy money.

There are six program areas for social services: child care, developmentally disabled services, adult services, chemical dependency, mental health, and children's services. Of the six, the money is spent for mental health services ($282,331) and services for the developmentally disabled ($191,408).

The department receives multiple grants to help cover these costs, but grant money in areas like mental health and children's services are slowly declining. One area where Stevens County regularly uses all of the available allocated money is in child care.

"For the most part, we spend all of our child care dollars, which I think is a good thing because that means people are working," said Murphy.

In 2012, Human Services had 568 calls from the public, up from 526 intakes from 2011. The county saw an increase in child protection assessments, adult protection assessments, and out of home placements for incidents. Stevens County also saw an increase in the number of income maintenance cases, with more people applying for food and health care assistance.

One ongoing challenge is to find mental health services and resources for residents in rural Minnesota.

"Out here in west central Minnesota, we don't have a boatload of mental health resources," said Murphy. "With some of our children, they're presenting with some very challenging behavior so it's been a bit of a struggle."

Another ongoing issue that will need to be addressed is how seniors are served in the county. Currently, Stevens County receives $13,000 from the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging (AAA) to help partially fund a senior coordinator in the department.

Staff from human services, public health, and AAA will be taking time this year to evaluate services for seniors and recommend how to move forward with these services, said Murphy.

"In terms of senior services, there's only going to be more and more seniors that are going to need them because the baby boomers are getting older," said Murphy.

Commissioner Phil Gausman, who serves on the AAA board and the West Central Joint Powers Board on Aging, said money continues to be a concern when it comes to funding services for seniors.

"I would foresee at some point in time, maybe not in the near future, but certainly at some point in time, [the senior coordinator] position is going to become a full-time position - they're going to get overwhelmed," said Gausman.

Bois de Sioux Watershed District to redetermine JD14 benefits

The Bois de Sioux Watershed District Board of Managers has directed watershed staff to re-determine the benefits for Judicial Ditch 14 after a lawsuit over the matter had been settled, Linda Vavra, Stevens County's representative to the Bois de Sioux Board of Managers told the Stevens County Commissioners Tuesday.

The original JD14 lands will now be redetermined to reflect present day land values and provide a solution to recover the re-determination of benefits costs expended so far, Vavra said.

Vavra told the board that although there were no winners in this situation, she was hopeful the current Board of Managers will learn from the past and rebuild trust over the issue.