The Minnesota Department of Human Services plans to open an office to process applications for MinnesotaCare at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center, eventually employing 75 workers at the Brainerd office.
DHS and Brainerd city officials made the announcement Wednesday. The MinnesotaCare office will be located in Building 1 at the campus space previously used for administrative services.
"An office in greater Minnesota will provide a reliable work force to process applications for MinnesotaCare and give eligible Minnesotans quicker access to health care coverage," Brian Osberg, assistant human services commissioner for health care, said in a news release. "We are pleased to be located on the Brainerd campus in a community where we have an excellent working relationship, with an outstanding work force."
About 35 MinnesotaCare jobs initially will be located at the Brainerd office, which is expected to open in February. Wages for most workers who will process applications for MinnesotaCare, a state subsidized health care program, start at $32,700 a year.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Eventually, 75 workers will be employed at the Brainerd office, with positions being filled as vacancies occur in St. Paul. Work would be transferred electronically from the St. Paul central office. Staffers would not be handling client phone calls or collecting premium payments. That work would remain in St. Paul.
"The city of Brainerd feels very fortunate that the DHS has chosen to locate the MinnesotaCare facility on the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center campus," Brainerd Mayor James Wallin said in a news release. "We appreciate the confidence that the state has put into the work force of our community to continue our long-standing efforts to provide vital services to residents of Minnesota from this facility."
The state and city, with support from the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp., began talks in early August to plan redevelopment and ownership of the regional human services center campus, which has been used by DHS since 1958 to provide treatment services for people with developmental disabilities, mental illness, chemical dependency and traumatic brain injury. Most of these services are now being provided in community-based settings. DHS continues to operate Minnesota Neurorehabilitation Services, Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Services and substance abuse treatment services at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
"I think it's obviously great news for the community, not only for the jobs but it's great the state is bringing those jobs to the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center campus," said Dan Vogt, Brainerd city administrator.
Vogt said the city is attempting to find more tenants for the campus, either those who would lease space in existing buildings or construct new facilities, but without spending taxpayer money.
Sheila Haverkamp, BLADC's executive director, said the DHS selected the Brainerd lakes area from a field of 11 other Minnesota cities.
"We're proud that the state of Minnesota recognizes our area to be the growing market with progressive technology, a skilled work force and many other resources," said Haverkamp.
Haverkamp said this project fits well with BLADC's 2020 Economic Development Vision for health care and manufacturing by supporting the existing industries in the market and reusing the BRHSC site.
"The addition of MinnesotaCare in the BRHSC is a catalyst for the redevelopment of the entire site," said Haverkamp.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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