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JDAI working to provide alternatives locally for troubled youth in county

By Anna Jauhola
By June 2022, Kittson County may have to begin paying for an existing juvenile justice reform program.
During the commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19, the board heard from Kelsey Keimig, coordinator for the northern region of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. The northern region covers Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Pennington and Roseau counties.
“This program is funded through June 2022 through a state grant,” Keimig said. “At that point, we have to look at alternative funds. I’m going around to county boards, sharing what we’re up to, where we’re headed, and put it on everybody’s radar that there is a cost that counties will start to incur if they would like to continue with this.”
The cost for the second half of 2022 is estimated up to $8,000 for Kittson County.
The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative started in Minnesota in 1992, and was signed on in Kittson County by a previous board less than a decade ago. The initiative is meant to “eliminate unnecessary and inappropriate use of secure detention for juveniles,” according to the JDAI Minnesota website.
Keimig said there are times when secure detention is necessary for juveniles, but many more times than not, the situation calls for much less dramatic placement.
“A kid might not be able to go home right away, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be jailed. So that’s what we want to do is build up some other opportunities,” she said.
Rather than sending a child to the Bemidji Juvenile Detention Center, for example, Keimig said the JDAI hopes to implement foster home-type settings. This can allow for a situation to decelerate at home and avoid placing a child in detention.
For those who do need detention, the JDAI northern region collaboration allows for pooled resources. While member counties with lower populations, like Kittson, Roseau and Lake of the Woods, don’t have enough kids to support local resources, together they can make that happen.
“The benefits JDAI communities have over time is they bring more resources to areas. They decrease detention and out-of-home placement costs. They work with social services and schools, law enforcement, the courts, judges and administrators,” Keimig said. “They get together and build up resources at the front end to create more opportunities to help kids and families before stuff gets to that point where we put them in detention and remove them from the home.”
For Kittson, Roseau and Lake of the Woods specifically, Keimig said JDAI uses a multijurisdictional approach to help create resources to address issues.
This True North Collaborative helps provide resources locally to help keep kids in their own communities and schools instead of having to place them outside the county or area.
While the program will likely begin costing the county money next year, Keimig said there is a bright side.
“We’re looking at expanding to some other counties up north here,” she said. “And every time a new county comes on board, the cost to the county decreases. … So it’s something to talk about and get feedback from you and others involved.”
In other business, the board:
• Started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, as usual, but dedicated it to long-time veterans service officer, Bob Cameron, who died Wednesday, Oct. 13. While the commissioners cannot use county money toward gifts or memorials, the commissioners all agreed to use their own private money to donate toward a cause benefiting veterans. After discussion with current VSO Wayne Jacobson, the commissioners agreed to donate to the Middle River Veterans Outdoors program. This program organizes hunting and fishing excursions for any and all veterans, totally free of charge.
• Approved taking the former Noyes Port of Entry building off the county’s sales list to reassess its value. County Administrator Brian Buhmann said he and Commissioner Darrel Johnson will visit the building and work to determine a new value as the building is in Johnson’s district. “The last assessment we had on it was about $20,000. We’re thinking since we ran some power out there, some new pumps and did some maintenance, we may need to look at assessing that at a slightly higher value,” Buhmann said. “It won’t be at what the highest bid value was, but we still think there’s a higher minimum that should be allowed.” Buhmann and Johnson will make a recommendation for a new value at the Tuesday, Nov. 2 board meeting, at which time the board can vote to set that new value. Then the board can decide whether they place the building back on the sales list or put it up for bids again.
• Approved hiring Twyla Preble for the front desk position within the county social services department. Preble will start Monday, Nov. 1 in the full-time position at $19.91 per hour. Social Services Director Kathy Johnson said they received two applicants for the position, which was left open earlier this year when long-time employee Trina Bengtson retired.
• Approved signing the Department of Human Services contract with Equifax, which social services uses to check on clients’ employment.
• Approved the annual contract with T.H.E. Bus, which is provided through Tri-Valley Transportation out of Crookston. This public transportation service, which comes to Hallock and Karlstad weekly, costs $2 per ride and social services spends about $1,000 a year on the service.
• Approved an additional four weeks of Family Medical Leave for a social services employee who needed extra time to care for a new baby.
The next meeting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 9 a.m.

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