BACKUS-Cass County commissioners voted Tuesday, Feb. 19, to authorize Health, Human and Veterans Services to hire an additional social worker.

A Sourcewell grant to Region Five will pay $47,719 of the new employee's expected $75,603 salary and benefit costs. Cass' HHVS budget has sufficient money pay the remaining $27,884, HHVS Director Michele Piprude said.

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This is part of a $287,000 grant to be shared among Region Five counties to implement a Comprehensive Re-Entry Program, which aims to meet mental health and substance use disorders of people the criminal justice system serves.

The new social worker will provide screening for drug and mental health issues for people placed in jail, so referrals can be made to support services that will help them function better when they are released from jail.

The social worker also will evaluate people from Cass County who have been sent to state hospitals as incompetent. Hospital costs for each person run between $1,200 and $1,500 per day, Piprude said.

The goal will be to determine whether any of these people could be helped enough to be deemed competent, then either return to the criminal justice system or return to a group home or other supported living situation at a lower cost than in a state hospital, Piprude said.

In other HHVS business, the county board:

Accepted a donation from Lakewood Health Systems of $125 for toothpaste, dental floss and toothbrushes for children's dental health month to be given to HHVS clients.

Approved a memorandum of agreement with Central Minnesota Council of Aging to provide $3,040, which is matched by the federal Older Americans Act to provide in-home care services.

Approved a contract with Lake County Associates of Park Rapids to provide adult and child community support services not to exceed $70,000 and employment services not to exceed $10,000 per year. Services will be billed at $45 per hour.

Approved a contract with Northern Pines Mental Health Center of Brainerd to provide home-based mental health services/in-home family counseling not to exceed $15,000 per year.

Approved a contract with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota to provide guardianship and conservatorship services, with cost not to exceed $55 per hour this year.

Approved a contract with Geri Wilimek, licensed independent clinical social worker of Bemidji, to provide individual, family and group mental health services to adults and children at a cost not to exceed $5,000 this year.