IRTS Ground Breaking

Over a dozen state, county and local officials celebrated the start of construction on a residential mental health treatment facility in downtown Savage on Sept. 16. The facility will be owned by the Scott County Community Development Agency and operated by Guild Incorporated.

Construction began on the Savage Intensive Residential Treatment Services mental health facility this week.

Many elected officials and community partners called the groundbreaking celebration a dream come true after years of working to fill a gap in mental health services.

“Mental illness is a community need, it’s a community issue and it’s a statement to the people in our community when we can step up and invest and provide these sorts of services to better their lives,” said Executive Director and CEO of Guild Incorporated Julie Bluhm.

Guild Incorporated, a nonprofit organization that provides an array of mental health services, will operate the 16,000-square-foot, two-story treatment center being constructed on the northwest corner of Ottawa Avenue and 124th Street. The organization currently runs residential treatment programs in South St. Paul. The facility will be owned by the Scott County Community Development Agency.

The 16-bed facility, expected to open next year, will offer crisis stabilization services for up to 10 days, and intensive residential treatment services, referred to as IRTS, for up to 90 days.

IRTS programs provide access to intensive treatment while preparing individuals to integrate back into their community and home setting, Bluhm told the Savage Pacer earlier this year. Without transitional support, many people with mental illness bounce between two extremes on the care spectrum — hospitalizations and outpatient services.

Bluhm said Guild Incorporated turned away 73% of people who qualified for their services last year in Dakota County.

“We know that each of those people represented by that 73% came to us in dire need of services,” she said.

Many state, county and local officials have spoken widely in recent years about addressing mental health needs in Scott County by providing local services for residents and expanding efforts to decriminalize mental illness.

Savage Mayor Janet Williams, former Republican State Rep. Drew Christensen of Savage, Claire Robling, Scott County’s legislative and communications coordinator and Pam Selvig, Scott County’s Director of Health and Human Services, are a few who are often commended for their work to bring the treatment center to Savage.

Funding for the project came together over roughly two years from sources that include the state Legislature, Scott and Dakota counties, the city of Savage, Allina Health and St. Francis Regional Medical Center.

Scott County Board Chair Barbara Weckman Brekke thanked local officials for recognizing “how important it was to stop viewing this crisis from afar and actually take action and do something about it.”

“It’s very extremely emotional for me,” Williams said during the ceremony. “We know things happen slowly, but a lot of changes are happening.”

Christine Schuster is a reporter for the Savage Pacer.

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