An additional 52 beds for children in need of psychiatric care are coming to Grand Rapids.
The Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation on Monday approved a $1 million loan to North Homes Children and Family Services for the addition of 20 beds at its existing Community Mental Health Center in Grand Rapids and for the construction of a new 32-bed facility next door. Separately, the IRRR also approved a $350,000 grant to the city of Grand Rapids for infrastructure and work on the site of the planned expansion.
It will give the $6.5 million project a boost in helping fill a much-needed shortage of psychiatric care facilities for children aged 11 to 18 in the region, said North Homes CEO Jim Christmas.
“There are a large number of kids being placed out of state,” Christmas said, adding that hundreds of kids across the state are currently on a monthslong waitlist.
“So the state and counties are screaming for this level of care,” Christmas said.
But the state is trying to alleviate that shortage.
North Homes was one of three providers contracted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services to provide the state with 150 new beds in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities, which offers intensive inpatient mental health services through Medicaid.
DHS also contracted with Northwood Children's Services in Duluth and the Hills Youth and Family Services in East Bethel for similar facilities.
While the IRRR unanimously approved the loan and grant, several board members expressed frustration that North Homes had chosen Grand Rapids rather than a more central Iron Range location such as Buhl.
North Homes had considered the former Martin Hughes School in Buhl. For almost 18 years, the building housed Mesabi Academy, a juvenile correctional facility, until its closure in June 2016. At the time of its closure, it employed 138 people and was the largest employer in Buhl, a town of about 1,000 people.
State Rep. Dave Lislegard, DFL-Aurora, said it was “disappointing” North Homes’ facilities weren’t in Buhl but added that he was “very, very pleased” that Greater Minnesota is getting a facility like that.
Christmas said Buhl proved a challenging location as the workforce required significant training and the old school building didn’t have the existing infrastructure like North Homes’ current Grand Rapids campus.
The new facility could bring 65-80 new employees and retain 25 existing staff members, North Homes said.
Also at Monday's meeting, the IRRR approved a $600,000 loan for Heliene, Inc. a Solar manufacturer in Mountain Iron that said it will use the money to eliminate a bottleneck in production process and hire on another 15 people.
The board also approved a $760,000 loan to RSF Industries, a Hibbing steel fabricator, to expand its building and purchase a burn table. The company said the loan will allow it to hire 10-13 new employees and retain 21 current employees.