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

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Efforts continue to save Liberalis program


"This is a battle for our jobs," said Stasha Sickler, employee of Liberalis Womens Chemical Health Services based in Carlton, "and more importantly, this is a struggle to make sure a program that works for all those women we help is not sacrificed because of budget cuts." So far, the Liberalis program, started in 1981 in Moose Lake at the old Regional Treatment Center, is scheduled to close in July.

State Rep. Mike Sundin and Sen. Tony Lourey arranged for a meeting of the affected parties last week in St. Paul with Deputy Commissioner Anne Barry of Health and Human Services, local legislators, Liberalis employees, union reps and a member from Gov. Dayton's staff.

Liberalis is a residential chemical dependency program with an all-female staff working with women who are suffering from substance abuse disorders and mental health issues. These clients have major barriers to recovery in particular, such as life skills, reunification with their children, self-esteem and building a strong foundation on which to begin their journey to recovery.

In written information submitted at the meeting by the Advocates of Liberalis, they wrote, "Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, Health and Human Services, has stated that the current State-run chemical dependency programs (CARE) were created for only the most serious chemical dependency cases and yet several of the current clients are voluntary admissions. It should be understood that most of our 'voluntary' population has treatment as a condition of parole or probation, is a participant in drug court, is on a stay of commitment, or has a child protection case."

"Besides the loss of good paying jobs and a program that works," commented Rep. Sundin, "there will be major fallout to local associated institutions and businesses that benefit or provide services to Liberalis." Listed in the information provided by Rep. Sundin's office was, to mention some for example, Interfaith Care Center (owner of the building), AEOA, Avland's Food Service, Thrifty White Pharmacy, Ameripride Linens, Human Development Center/Mr. Percy, Equal Access, Culligan's, Bernick's, Cloquet Memorial Hospital, Raiter Clinic, Cloquet City Cab, Hagen's, Harold's Auto Service, MSOCS Cleaning Crew, Lake Superior Community Health, Vision Pro, Nystrom's and Associates, St. Luke's, Essentia, and Midwest Medical Supply. Twenty-seven state employees work at the facility.

In further observations by the Advocates of Liberalis, they noted, "The Department of Health and Human Services has spent years training other Community Addiction Recovery Enterprises (CARE) in other parts of the State to be State certified Mentally Ill/Chemically Dependent (MI/CD) and yet have repeatedly denied Liberalis the staffing, training, and resources that would have made the program meet the standards. We have had to deny several MI/CD women from using our program."

The Advocates go on to comment, "All the other CARE sites in the State are co-ed facilities — one being Native American specific. Yet we now have the State closing the only site that supports a female-only population and employs a female-only staff."

The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council is made up of the representatives of the 11 federally-recognized Native Bands in Minnesota. The council has come in unanimous support of a legislative bill that requests increased funding for Liberalis "in order to increase funding for all women, including the American Indian women, of Carlton County."

Tammy Roth, chemical dependency social worker for Hubbard County Social Services, wrote in an email, "It seems to me that closing any of the State CD and mental health facilities is contrary to what the governor is trying to do with the new budget. None of this really makes sense to those of us that work in the field and see what is needed."


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