By Dan Reed 

Fate of Liberalis uncertain


"Senator Tony Lourey and Representative Mike Sundin have been diligent in their support for CARE (Liberalis) of Carlton to my office," remarked Wade Brost, interim executive director of Minnesota Health and Human Services, during a question and answer session with the Carlton County Board of Commissioners at their board meeting. "Legislative action is unknown at this time with the governor and the House of Representatives and the Senate entering Conference Committee negotiations. We do not know what the final legislation will be and the direction my department needs to take with their final agreement."

Commissioner comments were pointed. Chairman Marv Bodie asked Brost, "Why are you closing such a successful program and seem unconcerned about the economic impact to our area?" Brost replied, "The State of Minnesota's goal is to get out of CD treatment in the public sector. We hope to fund private programs to handle the treatment options."

Brost explained, "The program at Liberalis is costly. Cost per client is around $400 per day with reimbursement from the federal government of $275 per day. Court committed clients are reimbursed at a higher level than a voluntary client. We hope to set up a 16 bed facility with only committed clients admitted and this will be run as a private program."

Dennis Genereau, county coordinator, commented, "The closing of this facility came with no warning and just a two month window. The program lost a lot of good staff to other employment when the situation at Liberalis was so unsettled." It was pointed out that Liberalis admissions come from other programs as county referrals because those programs had failed to provide a successful treatment outcome. Liberalis was a last resort and has over a 60 percent success rate.

Jodi Hakamaki, CARE employee, explained, "Voluntary clients come to the program because of court action, family pressure, health issues, employer concerns and other reasons with Liberalis providing services for clients' needs, for example GED completion, so the client will successfully return to life in the community. We are a treatment facility staffed completely by women and we show results."

Brost replied, "I agree — Liberalis is a very successful program. Our focus is the cost and whether the state should be involved in running treatment programs."

Mike Tardy, highway engineer, asked the commissioners for authority to use eminent domain for right-of-way acquisition along the Big Lake Road west of the Perkins driveway just up from the stoplights on Highway 33 in Cloquet. Plans are to build a sidewalk on the north side of Big Lake Road from the Perkins driveway 700 feet west.

Tardy explained, "We have acquired the land for most of the 700-foot sidewalk expansion but we have failed to negotiate a deal on one parcel. We must complete this project. I hope we can reach an agreement shortly but we will need to acquire the rights by eminent domain if negotiations fail." The commissioners agreed to use eminent domain as a last option.

Greg Bernu, land commissioner, recommended, "The land use plan for tax-forfeited land we manage should be reviewed. It has not been upgraded for several years. I would like to re-establish the Natural Resources Advisory Group."

Commissioner Gary Peterson volunteered and was appointed to be the board representative on the advisory group. He will meet with Auditor Paul Gassert and Bernu to list what issues should be presented to the advisory board and what the makeup of the group should be. A report will come back for board action.

Lobbying work continues for the upgrade of Highway 73 south of Cromwell. A delegation headed by Moose Lake City Councillor Mike Peterson and Carlton County Commissioner Peterson presented the project to the House of Representatives Transportation Committee with guidance from Rep. Sundin, a member of that committee. "I got favorable comments back on the presentation from some of the House members," said Sundin. "Anything can happen in the upcoming conference committee negotiations and we are in a good position for next year's bonding cycle. We just have to keep pushing."


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