Isanti County reduces beds needed at Juvenile Center

Throughout the years, Isanti County has implemented programming that has decreased its need for space at East Central Regional Juvenile Center (ECRJC), and Probation Director Tim McMillan asked the board to approve again decreasing the number of beds reserved for the county.

At its Sept. 4 meeting, the board concurred, and approved decreasing Isanti County’s beds to one bed, down from 1.5. At one point, the county had 3.5 beds reserved in the facility.

The ECRJC joint powers agreement originated in 1997 with Chisago, Kanabec, Isanti, Mille Lacs, Oine, Sherburne, Washington, Wright and Benton counties. The second joint powers agreement was signed in 2012, after Benton County dropped out. 

The ECRJC joint powers agreement guarantees Isanti County law enforcement a local place to bring a juvenile who has been arrested, according to McMillan. If this weren’t available, or all the county’s reserved bed space is being used, law enforcement may be forced to drive a juvenile across the state to another facility that has room, McMillan explained.

With Isanti County reducing the bed space needed, another county within the joint powers agreement can take that space, or the joint powers could invite other counties to join or rejoin the agreement.

McMillan noted ECRJC is having no trouble selling beds to other counties at this time. However, Isanti County is not utilizing its full bed space. 

For instance, in 2018 the average length of stay for juveniles from Isanti County was 5.6 days. The program was utilized by 162 males and 16 females, totaling 336 days. In 2017, Isanti County utilized 396 days; in 2016 it was 395 days; in 2015, 492; and in 2014, 344 days.

“We have a lot more resources,” McMillan said. “The punitive side of working with the kids has switched to more the rehabilitative side providing incentives and just skill-based tech work based on their mental health and what their needs are. Our goal is to get them out and be a full-functioning member of our community.” 

Although there were times in the past when Isanti County was sending up to 10 juveniles to ECRJC and utilizing the programs with longer stays, now there are only one or two kids each year that utilize the longer programming.

“That’s a great thing to sit here and talk about and share with you,” McMillan said. “That says what we are doing in-house, and the programming that we are using in our own community and surrounding communities, is taking hold and is working, so we don’t have to send somebody to a locked facility to get the programming. That’s what I like to see.”

MN Board on Aging Dementia grant

Although given less than a month to write a competitive grant, Community Health Director Tony Buttacavoli stated his department was able to complete a grant for the opportunity to obtain $50,000 for 2020. 

The program areas for the grant focus on how dementia affects individuals with the disease, how it affects caregivers and how it affects communities. There were basically four areas of focus, he said – increase awareness of the disease, promote benefits of early identification, increase the rate of cognitive testing, and connect caregivers to resources. 

If awarded the grant, Isanti County plans to expand and reach out to Braham and work with them on becoming a dementia–friendly community, work on additional community awareness and education, hold two health fairs, and work with Allina in educating physicians and staff on the protocol established to assist dementia patients. 

Isanti County will find out if it was awarded the grant by the end of September.

 CBD joint obtains tobacco license

In other business, the board approved a tobacco license for the CBD Joint in Isanti. 

Board member Mike Warring asked if everything was approved, and Buttacavoli explained that applicants fill out a two-page application, after which an extensive background check is conducted. If those two requirements are met and the applicant pays the licensing fee, it is brought before the board for approval.

He also explained that tobacco licenses are calendar year licenses, so any business that receives a license during the year must reapply in December, giving the county another chance to review how the business is operating.

Buttacavoli also shared the news that Braham city council passed Tobacco 21 at its Sept. 3 council meeting. 

“A lot of that had to do with the leadership of their city administrator Sally Hoy and the city council being on board with this,” he said.

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