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County will privatize Mental Health Center

Goodhue County Health and Human Services Board unanimously approved a contract Tuesday to privative the county’s Mental Health Center.

Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center will take over the Rule 29 clinic next spring after a vote HHS Board members called “historic.”

“This new partnership will ensure that Goodhue County’s residents will continue to have access to high-quality mental health services along with increased access and capacity,” HHS Director Nina Arneson said in a statement.

The plan is for the center to move from its current spot in the lower level of the Citizens Building to another building in Red Wing, but the exact location has not been revealed.

The transition is expected to be completed by April 1, 2014, Arneson said. Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center will then take over diagnostics, therapy, parenting evaluations, crisis assistance and other services currently handled by the county’s Mental Health Center.

“They will do everything that is mandated to us by law with the addition of more clients being able to be seen,” HHS Board member Gary Iocco said.

HHS Board member and County Board Chair Dan Rechtzigel said Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center also plans to look into setting up a satellite office outside of Red Wing to better serve the rest of the county.

The organization has 49 years of experience providing mental health services in nearby Wabasha, Winona, Fillmore, Houston and La Crosse Counties, according to a staff report.

HHS Board gave approval Aug. 20 to research the feasibility of privatizing the Mental Health Center while maintaining the county’s Community Support Program, Arneson said. A request for proposal to run the Mental Health Center was released Sept. 9.

Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center was the only proposal submitted to the county.

Rechtzigel said he initially was concerned with the lack of response, but changed his mind after reviewing the proposal and the “glowing recommendations” from other counties.

Shifting the Mental Health Center to the private sector will mean a potential cost avoidance of around $225,000 for the county, a staff report states.

“It’s a significant number, no doubt about that,” Rechtzigel said.

Although the move would cut five fulltime county employees at the current clinic, Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center said it would provide interview opportunities for them to transfer over, Arneson said.

HHS Board member and County Commissioner Jim Bryant said the move is a “big step” for Goodhue County, and that Tuesday’s decision could not have been done without the help of HHS staff and board members.

The county will work with Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center in the coming weeks to transition customers to the new site.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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