May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The purpose of the month is to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. Through research, it is known that mental illnesses come from genetic, biological, psychological and/or environmental factors. It is not a personal choice or a character weakness, and the severity of the illness can range from minor to major.

Many who live with the illness are challenged to find professional help. In response to the need, Scott County has made great strides over the past few years by finding ways to add services regarding mental health.

In April 2018, Scott County began contracting with Canvas Health to begin providing mobile crisis response services to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in the community. Canvas provides both phone and on-site support, which will allow for those in need to receive the appropriate services in the moment. Contact 952-818-3702 if you are in need of this service.

Over recent years, several gaps were identified in Minnesota’s mental health system especially relating to crisis beds. These are services for individuals who do not require hospitalization but would benefit from a temporary placement in a supportive environment. There is currently a growing number of individuals that are in need of these services, and there is currently not a Scott County option. Those that are hospitalized can wait days before they are able to be released and often are transported throughout Minnesota or nearby states for crisis care.

Due to this gap, Scott County partnered with the city of Savage, Dakota County, the Scott County Community Development Authority and Guild Incorporated and received over $4 million in state funding that will allow for an Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS) Center to be opened in Savage.

Construction will begin this spring with plans to open in 2020. Care is focused on helping patients integrate back into the community during and after experiencing a flare in their illness. The center will allow for a local treatment option without being transported away from friends and family.

I chair the Scott County Local Area Council on Mental Health. Our role is to identify gaps in services and propose solutions to the Scott County Board of Commissioners, who can assist with addressing these needs. Both the mobile crisis response team and the center are good examples of recommendations and outcomes.

The need is great, much has been accomplished, but there is more to do to improve the lives and remove the stigma of mental illness for those in Scott County.

John Stadler is the chairman of the Scott County Local Area Council on Mental Health.

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