Child protection in Crow Wing County has doubled since last year.
Sue Beck, county welfare director, told the Crow Wing County Board Tuesday that she has assigned 50 investigations so far this year, compared with 25 in 1999. Child and family referrals have climbed from 56 to 85 as well.
There are two main reasons for the increase in child protection cases. Increases of domestic violence and the use of methamphetamines are having a huge impact on the children. There are a number of children involved in cases related to the meth lab busts, added Beck.
"We've seen a significant increase," Beck said. "It's a significant problem in Crow Wing County right now."
In other social service business, the commissioners approved continuing an agreement with healthy moms and children grant through the Minnesota State Department of Health. The grant is for $83,600 and services pregnant women, who are at risk of having fetal alcohol syndrome babies.
DHS also awarded the county with an adolescent services grant for $145,000 a year for three years. The money will be used to provide services to violent 11 to 18 year olds.
The county has 595 children who have a severe emotional problem disturbance. Of this group, 342 have been violent to themselves, others or to property, 193 have a conduct disorder and 149 are diagnosed with depression.
The board approved child care leaves for Teresia Mortenson and Paula Armagost. The board also approved to spend $10,000 for detox furniture for the department.
Commissioners approved to proceed with assessments for all staff for training sessions on cumulative trauma disorders or muskuloskeletal disorders that relate to office and computer workstations.
Chairman Terry Sluss explained to the board why he voted in favor of continuing with the Essential Health plan. Sluss said from a look at the numbers at the end of five years the counties would have recovered all their investments and have the needed reserve capital.
"Based on that I felt it was a doable project," Sluss said.
Beck said after a number of worse case scenarios and earlier problems, other counties were unable to hang in there any longer. Beck also noted Crow Wing County has been asked if there is any interest in proceeding on its own or linking with another county.
Commissioner Jim Hill said he thought the project has become so frustrating that recent encouraging actions by the state and federal departments were a too little and much too late.
Beck had early concerns when the project first started, but that changed with time.
"I'm absolutely convinced it would be the best thing for the people in this community," Beck said.
Board members agreed to an agricultural program assistant pay increase. The person currently receives $7.50 per hour for 13 hours a week year round, this rate has stayed the same since 1998. For the year the assistant earns about $5,500. A three percent increase was accepted.
This person maintains agriculture and horticulture contacts with the University of Minnesota and other state and county agencies. The assistant also coordinates the master gardener's program.
Roy Luukkonen, county auditor, presented the budget report for the last two months ending in February. A significant share of the building fund budget has been expended on renovation of the judge's chamber and the modular furniture for the planning and zoning office.
The total budget for the year is about $45.6 million and so far $7.6 million has been spent -- or 16.6 percent of the budget.
A $4,200 health alert network grant was accepted. It is used to promote public health.
Another change order for the Crow Wing County Detention Center for about $1,000 was approved for plumbing and electrical. Commissioners also approved a regional jail programming grant proposal.
(Renee Richardson, senior reporter, also contributed to this report.)
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