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

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Liberalis may close, future uncertain


"Liberalis is set to close," announced Dave Lee, director of Carlton County Health and Human Services, at the recent Carlton County Committee of the Whole meeting. "The program continues to operate in the red and an aging building here in Carlton would need a lot of updating to serve a program."

The Liberalis program, which focused on women with chemical dependency issues, was established in an Inter-faith Care Center facility in the city of Carlton with the closing of the Moose Lake Regional Treatment Center over 20 years ago. Many of the Moose Lake employees at that time continued state employment there.

Pat Skog of Moose Lake finished her years with the State of Minnesota after her job in the Moose Lake Regional Treatment Center ended. "The treatment program at Liberalis is much tougher than the programs in the private sector. Those that go through the program have a high success rate. If you are looking for results, this program is one that produces positive outcomes for women struggling."

When asked why this has happened, Skog responded by phone, "When I worked there the place was run with one RN and 4-5 LPNs — this was besides the CD counselors on staff. It was a good program. I don't know all the details but in the last few years the staff has become top-heavy with five RNs. Four to five people, I have been told, are staffing the night shift. They don't need to close. They need new management and to tighten up."

"I am going to write to the governor and our legislators," she continued. "I need to ask a lot of questions to why this has happened. It makes you wonder if this top heavy administrative staff was put in to red line the budget and force closure."

Rep. Mike Sundin, when contacted for input, said, "This is a situation where good-paying jobs in our area are in jeopardy again. Sen. Tony Lourey and I have teamed up to work on a solution. Tony is working on the state officials that will make the final decision. I am making the case by organizing the facts. There is human fallout here — people who will be hurt by this closure. Women who cannot get a strong treatment program. Staff who lose their jobs. And businesses in our area that provide goods and services to that program. Interfaith gets $23,000 a month for rent from the state. This will effect the rest of the programs they provide in our county."

"Women's lives are in the balance here," he pointed out. "Women are referred here from other programs that had no success with their illness. We have a nationally recognized prenatal and postnatal health care program available close by in Duluth. Concern for the care of a child to be born to a women in treatment is important. This all makes a difference in each individual life."

Closure had been scheduled for April 1 but Sen. Lourey and Rep. Sundin have been able to forestall the closing date to July 1. Twenty-seven full- and part-time jobs are on the line. Gov. Mark Dayton has offered to give more funding to private programs. This does not answer the question of why the Liberalis program, which has a high success rate, must close when it is uncertain if the private sector is able to handle the treatment needs of Minnesota women.


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