Admissions up, programming expands at Bemidji juvenile center, Cass County Council learns – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal

BACKUS — Admissions to the Northwest Minnesota Juvenile Center in Bemidji increased slightly in 2021 from the previous year, the Cass County Board has learned.

Mindy O’Brien, Superintendent of Bemidji Juvenile Justice Center, shared the annual report along with a programming update at the Tuesday, March 15, board meeting. A total of 76 young people took part in the latest program, the majority being between the ages of 14 and 17 and of Native American ethnicity.

O’Brien also shared updates on the center’s programming offerings, including in-house therapy services, use of the school district-approved sweat lodge as class credit, and a therapy dog ​​named Willa.

Over the past year, the center has been able to use funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to build an activity field, purchase day room furniture and update admission. Another update to the center was the move to a self-contained kitchen in August. Since the center has its own kitchen, it is able to offer better quality home-cooked meals and apply for various grants to help with the purchase of food.

During the first quarter of 2022, the center received the following grants: $2,500 from farm to table; $2,750 of fresh fruits and vegetables; $6,100 from supply chain assistance; $9,200 from United States Department of Agriculture school lunch program products; and preliminary approval of an equipment grant in the amount of $16,445.

Bob Smith, the centre’s cultural coordinator, presented the young people present with a performance on a feather drum that they built themselves. Smith also shared that cultural programs are open to all young people who reside at the facility, but are limited to a smaller number as only a limited number of people can fit around a drum.

A second barrel can be built as the number of residents wishing to participate in this program increases, but it is expensive. Expansion of this program will be explored to allow for greater participation, Smith said.

Kyndra Johnson is a correspondent for Cass County Council.

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