Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Staff reports
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Mental health agency closes


The mental health agency that serves Pine County residents closed on Monday.

Two weeks ago, Pine County Commissioner Steve Chaffee of Hinckley reported that Riverwood, formerly known as Five County Mental Health, has had substantial cash flow problems.

Riverwood, in an email to the four counties it served, stated it would be closed at the end of the day on Monday.

Kevin W. Wojahn, executive director of Riverwood, said the agency had begun to notify clients and requested staff to coordinate potential referrals. He also said the crisis line would be handed off to another agency.

“This is not the outcome that I would have chosen for the organization. It is a sad day for our clients, for my staff, and for the region as a whole,” wrote Wojahn.

Along with a hardship on vulnerable clients, it will also affect the county since the agency owes the county $66,639.

Riverwood is used by Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec and Pine counties. Mille Lacs recently announced it would be pulling out of the joint powers agreement.

“What threw a monkey wrench in it was Mille Lacs County pulling out,” Chaffee said two weeks ago.

The organization is going to send a letter to Mille Lacs requiring it to pay what it agreed when the five counties formed this entity.

County Administrator David Minke said on Tuesday that Health and Human Services Director Patrick Bruflat and his team have identified alternative service providers and a list is posted on the county website. Any clients with specific questions can contact their county case worker.

Minke said county funding for Riverwood had remained flat for a number of years.

Riverwood had 3,000 clients in the region. The agency helped provide group therapy, along with one-on-one psychiatric counseling for people with severe depression and other mental health illnesses. It also helped patients transition once they were released from psychiatric institutions.

Chaffee told the board, at this week's regular meeting, Mille Lacs County pulled out of the board and, because of the debt, the remaining counties on Riverwood board made the decision to close. It will be filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

He told the board the county would have to scramble to meet the mental health needs, but he is confident Bruflat will be able to handle this change.

"It is unfortunate. The operation struggled for a long time. I think it was something the directors could foresee," Chaffee said.


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