Representatives from Carlton County's Public Health program reported Carlton County ranks near the bottom in a Minnesota study on health outcomes for its residents. What does this mean? The study looked at 25 factors that influence health, such as childhood poverty, adult obesity, access to dental care, graduation rates, physical inactivity, and percent of children in single family homes, to name a few, and Carlton County was ranked against the 86 other counties in Minnesota. Of those 86 counties, Carlton County was ranked 81.
The report was presented to the Carlton County Board of Commissioners as they met for a committee of the whole meeting on May 7.
The health outcome score is measured in five ways:
1. Years of potential life lost (YPLL) before age 75, the age an average person can expect to live.
2. Percent of adults reporting "poor" or "fair" health.
3. Average number "poor physical health" days in past month.
4. Average number "poor mental health" days in past month.
5. Percent of live births with low birth weight.
An aging, retired resident population does have some impact, it was noted. The top three priorities to address are obesity, mental health, and drug abuse. There are a score of programs working on the issues through Health and Human Services. Text4Life, a suicide prevention program for teens using a hotline method has been funded, for example.
The report goes on to say: Leading causes of death, common with other county entities, is cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Carlton County struggles in this category because we have more suicides than almost any other county in Minnesota. Suicide tends to occur among younger adults with mental health issues and drug abuse. Treatment for mental health issues among the resident population is not always successful if the client is not cooperative. Mental health commitments are rare unless there is a concern for public safety.
One Duluth mental health provider who wished not to be quoted reflected, "We are hampered in helping segments of the resident population with mental health issues if they refuse help. The legal system reinforces the idea that they have the right to be ill. Health care professionals and law enforcement can have their hands tied due to this. Early death for those with mental issues or injury or death for family members or friends results quite often. As a society, we have not been able to solve this recurring problem."
Concerns for behavioral health impacts due to the flood of June 2012, it was announced, were being addressed with a $120,000 grant from the state for addressing these health issues. According to Dave Lee, Director for Health and Human Services, more than 50 percent of our county population has some behavioral health issues from the losses from flooding. Many disaster victims had previous behavioral health issues, it is felt. More information is forthcoming.
For more information, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org.
Pat Oman, director of the county's economic development and newly hired administrator for the city of Moose Lake, gave an annual report on the department's activities and standing during his tenure. The overall loan portfolio has risen from $809,688 to $2,559,055 loans invested in the county communities. Since he took over in 2006, Oman has guided the loan default rate of 31.5 percent ($300,000 in delinquent loans) to drop to 7.84 percent of loans with only four loans struggling out of 51 currently being administered.
Plans are now underway to find his replacement with an extensive search much like what was done for the new highway engineer. Oman commented, "The economic development director, as it is currently set up, must cover his own department's administrative salaries through grant sourcing. No county levy tax dollars are used for the work done in this department. This does drain from the pool that can be used to stimulate wealth creation in the county."
The Moose Horn Rod and Gun Club has requested moving a portion of their snowmobile right of way to county owned land in Sections 14 and 15 of Skelton Township just west of the Jim Newman farm. New owners of private land adjoining that stretch of snowmobile trail have dropped their permission to use the trail on their property. No objections were raised at this time.
Land Commissioner Greg Bernu requested permission for a new County timber sale set for June. Aitkin county just completed a spring timber sale and stumpage was bid up 75 percent with all parcels being sold. "The soft market for timber products," Bernu said, "appears to be ending. This high price for timber comes despite mill closings and a realignment of timber procurement for the retooled Sappi plant in Cloquet."
Oman reported that he is writing a federal grant for transportation funding for the long-needed rebuild of Highway 73 south of Cromwell. This comes from a grant pool called Tiger grants with strong support guaranteed from Congressman Rick Nolan. A steering committee has been formed from community leaders in western Carlton County which will meet shortly.
Major costs have been incurred by the county highway department due to the record wet snowfall in April. The good news is that the costs have come within annual budget guidelines and no additional funds are needed for that department.