The Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services program at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center will be closed as it is consolidated with a similar state program in Willmar.
The move will affect about 46 employees at the Brainerd center. Doug Seiler, regional administrator for State Operated Services Northern Network, said the affected workers include psychiatric staff, therapist staff, nursing staff and human services technicians. The majority of the jobs, he said, are union positions.
CABHS provides hospital and community-based mental health services to children and adolescents ages 6 to 18 who have a serious emotional disturbance and whose needs may exceed the capacities of their families and local communities, according to a Minnesota Department of Health memo.
Seiler said there are currently about a dozen patients in Brainerd now. Those patients will be treated in Brainerd until they're ready to be discharged, he said, noting the average length of stay is 38 or 39 days. The transition period is expected to last between 45 to 60 days.
Dr. Tom Wittkop, a contracted psychiatrist at BRHSC, said the state has stopped admitting patients in Brainerd for approximately a month. Before that closure, the CABHS program averaged about 20 patients, the psychiatrist said. He said closing the Brainerd program would make it difficult to serve young psychiatric patients who need longer term in-patient treatment.
"I think it's going to be tremendously difficult for the whole northern half of the state," he said. "There's no question county social services in northern Minnesota are going to be adversely affected by this."
Seiler said Willmar was chosen as the site for the consolidated services because 60 percent of patients served in the Childhood and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services are from the Twin Cities area.
"Willmar is closer, geographically speaking, for that market," Seiler said.
The Department of Human Services memo stated that state officials anticipate some employees will decide to take other positions within the department or opt for a enhanced separation package available to them.
The memo quoted DHS Assistant Commissioner Wes Kooistra as saying that the development of community-based alternatives to the CABHS program has resulted in decreased use of in-patient services at both the Brainerd and Willmar CABHS sites since 2004.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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