Ask the Chief
Occasionally I ask our community for help when I run into road blocks while trying to provide services to our residents.
This is one such occasion where I need YOUR HELP. Many people think that drunk driving is the biggest issue we face.
Some say it is the opioid crisis. While both of these are legitimate concerns, the real threat to rural Minnesota is the lack of mental health services, specifically in-patient care for juveniles.
Over the past 20 years, I have seen a steady increase in the need for juvenile mental health services while those same services are becoming harder to find. The reality is that there are not enough beds available to care for the total number of juveniles in need.
I spend countless hours trying to advocate for our youth.
During a recent case I called all over the state looking for a facility that would take a juvenile in need. Even with parental consent, the hurdles of admission into a facility and pre-testing are extremely burdensome.
I also learned that even if you have all of your paperwork and insurance ready there may still be up to a 6 month waiting period. How is this helping families who are in need right now? Who are they to turn to for help?
Many families have become overwhelmed by the system. They don’t know or completely understand what their rights are and they have no way of determining the quality of the services being provided or if they have options.
Sadly, when I run into this road block I am told by professionals in the field that perhaps the juvenile should be arrested for their behavior and then the courts can order a mental health evaluation. Is this really how we want to help our youth with mental health issues?
Is it appropriate to arrest them and put them in a detention facility, hoping that their needs will be recognized and provided for?
Please understand, I’m not making excuses for criminal behavior but if that behavior is a product of a mental or emotional illness then the criminal justice system is not the place to find appropriate care.
My goal as a Police Chief is to stop criminal behavior and to prevent it from reoccurring. I believe, based upon my experience and training, that the best way to accomplish this with those that have mental and emotional illness is to treat the illness.
If we can provide real and meaningful treatment, we have a chance to prevent criminal behavior from ever occurring.
If you have a loved one with a mental or emotional illness, I suspect you may have experienced what I am struggling with.
What I would like you to do is to take a few minutes out of your day and write a letter, email or call your state leaders.
Share with them your concerns and ask them to make funding for rural juvenile mental health care a priority because if we don’t we can expect to see more juveniles in the justice system rather than getting the medical care they so desperately need.
A way to help ...
Water Department Supervisor Tim DeVlaeminck and I found a creative way to re-purpose some signs we had sitting at the street department.
Tim welded a sign post to a receiver and we have it mounted on the back of my spare squad car.
This will allow me to respond to a variety of needs with a variety of signs and place around town.
We are always looking for ways to educate the public and to keep everyone safe.
If you have creative ideas, please let me know.