Proposed mental health facility in West St. Paul draws support, criticism 

[anvplayer video=”5150799″ station=”998122″]

Dozens of people packed into a meeting room in West St. Paul on Thursday night to voice both support and opposition to a proposed mental health facility.

The 16-bed crisis and recovery center would provide short-term residential mental health treatment. Dakota County officials have proposed building the facility in the northeast parking lot of the Dakota County Northern Service Center.

The center would be operated by Guild, a St. Paul nonprofit mental health service provider. The company currently operates a group of homes in South St. Paul that would collapse into the new facility.

Julie Bluhm, the CEO of Guild, said the mental health services system in Minnesota is in desperate need of treatment options.

“Our system is so overwhelmed right now that all of these services take a very long time to access,” she said. “My staff have told me that they turn down almost 250 people who qualify for the services, but we just don’t have room.“

But not everyone is convinced those beds belong in West St. Paul. 

Mark Drake, who lives in the neighborhood near the proposed site, said many of his neighbors just recently learned about the project.

“We were initially not given any notice that the facility was to be built in the parking lot of the government center,” said Drake, who says his home is approximately 383 feet from the proposed crisis center.

Drake said in recent weeks, he’s raised concerns over the safety in the neighborhood and how that could change when the facility opens.

“This is a 24/7 drop-in facility,” Drake said. “We know there’s not security, we know that cameras are not going to be part of it.”

At Thursday’s meeting, residents questioned what process county and Guild officials use to screen clients and if that includes a check for active warrants or other significant criminal history.

Bluhm acknowledged the individuals they serve with severe mental health issues from a variety of backgrounds.

“The reality is that the people that are coming to our facility are there because they want to be there,” she said. “They’re not being placed there because they’ve committed a crime or because they’re not safe to be in that community.”

West St. Paul’s city council is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. Final approval would come from the Dakota County Board of Commissioners.