Thousands of mentally ill patients scrambling to find care after clinic closes doors

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Thousands of mentally ill people in Minnesota are forced to find other care this week after one of the largest mental health agencies in the state shut down with little warning Monday.

The Braham-based Riverwood Centers chain of six east central Minnesota clinics is a nonprofit licensed with the state to provide mental health care. The system served around 3,000 clients in five counties.

Riverwood provided services include outpatient treatment, adult and children’s mental health rehabilitative programs, adult day treatment, community support services, children’s and adult mobile mental health crisis and adult residential crisis stabilization services.

In response to the closure, The Star tribune reports, state Department of Human Services officials put out an urgent call for other agencies to step in and help patients. The paper reports the state is also working with county officials to assess the region’s mental health needs.

“We’re so tight in [psychiatric] beds that any change in the delivery system impacts the whole system,” says Assistant Human Services Commissioner David Hartford. “The agencies need to reorganize to get people the care they need.”

In the meantime, another regional health agency will maintain Riverwood’s emergency hotline for people who may be suicidal or in mental crisis.

FOX 9 reports  patients were shocked Monday to hear the news their clinics were closing. Many of them had appointments scheduled for next week.

"I wanted to know where my records were going to be, why they're shutting down, would like to be able to see my counselor," patient Rochelle Domino says.

Domino used the clinic location in Pine City, Minnesota. She says her only notice that Riverwood Centers would be closing was an email from her counselor.

"They just cut us off -- no bumper," she says.

One Riverwood employee told FOX 9 employees were notified just last week that the agency would be closing.

Riverwood has a long history in Minnesota, founded 50 years ago.

The Star tribune reports the agency became essential in east-central Minnesota as the state moved patients out of large institutions and into settings close to home.

The paper reports Riverwood's funding grew increasingly insecure in recent years. The agency never recovered after Mille Lacs County ended its contract with the center late last year.

The closure is likely to fuel a shortage of psychiatric beds and mental health workers.

The Star Tribune cites a recent legislative report that found hundreds of patients are cycling in and out of hospital emergency rooms and county jails because the state lacks psychiatric beds and mental health professionals, particularly in rural counties like the ones served by Riverwood.

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