SCBHS plans to close Counseling Associates service in August

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Swift County-Benson Health Services plans to close its Counseling Associates of West Central Minnesota operation with those services to be consolidated with Woodland Centers as of Aug. 21.

Counseling Associates currently operates out of the second floor of the hospital employing seven counselors and three support staff. In addition to providing services to the community, they meet some of the counseling needs of Benson Public Schools. It has been providing mental health services to the area for more than 30 years.

Woodland Centers is a non-profit mental health services agency that is supported by six counties, including Swift. The other counties are Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, Meeker, Renville, and Chippewa with the main office in Willmar. It has offices in downtown Benson.

The county  paid $336,496 toward its operations in 2016. What the impact might be on the county’s contribution if Woodland Centers has to hire additional staff to serve the area in place of Counseling Associates has not been discussed yet.

For nearly 60 years it has been providing comprehensive mental health services in West Central Minnesota spanning the continuum of care from outpatient therapy to residential crisis for youth and adults.

Woodland Centers has offered to hire the counselors who work for Counseling Associates, SCBHS CEO Kurt Waldbillig said.

“This decision wasn’t made lightly,” he explained. “In this time of uncertainty in health care we felt consolidating our programs was the best decision in keeping mental health services local and viable for the future.”

It is also a financial decision for the hospital. It is losing nearly $150,000 on the service due to costs of operations more than the revenue it is able to generate.

The closure of Counseling Associates will mean that Woodland Centers is the sole mental health provider in Benson, Waldbillig said. “This will eliminate the competitive nature that has existed between Woodland Centers and Swift County - Benson Health Services, which will assist both agencies in putting the consumer’s needs first to determine what will be the most effective and efficient care for each individual,” he added.

By formulating a collaborative and cooperative relationship between Woodland Centers and the hospital, there is potential to increase the capacity of the hospital to involve mental health services in the primary care clinic, increase utilization of mobile crisis services in the ER and clinic, as well as improve coordination of patient care between primary care and mental health providers, Waldbillig said....


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