COVID-19 Pandemic Impacts - NWMHC reduces staff, footprint

Times Report

    The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting decreased use of the services it provides has resulted in Crookston’s Northwestern Mental Health Center trimming its staff and streamlining its use of space in the community.

    The reductions in administrative and clinical staff include the elimination of NWMHC’s Neuropsychology Program, Mental Health Center CEO Shauna Reitmeier said in a NWMHC announcement.

    In addition, with so many sent home to work remotely when pandemic restrictions were ramped up, some staff will be working remotely on a permanent basis, giving the Mental Health Center an opportunity to reduce its spatial footprint. So the NWMHC Board of Directors approved the official closure of the “Resource Center,” located in the former Novel Cup coffee shop in downtown Crookston. Community-based staff had typically used that location as a drop-in space to meet with clients. Those meetings will now take place at NWMHC’s main location on Bruce Street.

    In addition, senior management and finance staff that have been located in the Bremer Bank building downtown are in the process of being relocated to the main Mental Health Center office. That move should be complete by the end of this month.

    While the pandemic has caused “some hard days with difficult decisions,” Reitmeier said it has also helped NWMHC reimagine the way it does its work.

    “When we’re pushed outside our comfort zone and forced to think outside the box, that’s when we uncover new ideas and strategies to help us improve the way we support our clients,” she said.

    Current providers or managers will notify all clients affected by these reductions this week. Providers will discuss a transition plan that best supports each client and ensure continuity of care with no delay of mental health care services and support, Reitmeier said.

    NWMHC’s workforce currently totals 135. The staff reductions impact approximately 17% of the center’s clinical employees and 13% of its administrative staff, said Michelle Adolphen, NWMHC marketing director. The percentages include resignations and retirements.

Other updates

    • NWMHC’s East Grand Forks location is open again. Water damage that occurred mid-April caused the entire building to close. Reitmeier noted Polk County leadership making reopening the space a priority, and also doing some renovations throughout the rest of the building.

    • NWMHC continues to see a majority of its clients via telemedicine or telephonic. They can accommodate face-to-face appointments for more critical client needs and psychological testing and evaluations. They offer same-day appointments for new clients, so they encourage people who have considered getting additional support to call 281-3940 and talk to a provider.

    If you are experiencing symptoms of stress, are in crisis, or if you feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, you’re encouraged to call NWMHC’s 24/7 Support & Crisis Helpline at 800-282-5005 or text MN to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.