County Commissioners get reports on National 4-H Week and rural stress

Published 6:10 am Thursday, October 10, 2019

Celebrating National 4-H Week, the Mower County 4-H shared some information with the county board regarding its programming and past events on Tuesday.

Mower County 4-H Interim Program Coordinator Kate Harrington told commissioners that the county was well-represented at local, state and national-level competitions, with 482 enrolled members through Mower County 4-H, and 150 adult volunteers, which is a 40 percent increase from the previous year.

“We’re hoping for 500 this year,” Harrington joked with the board. “We anticipate that number growing even further.”

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The goal of 4-H is to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills of youth through experiential learning programs and positive youth development. Traditionally, 4-H was considered to be an agriculturally-focused organization from its history, the organization focuses on different areas such as citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering and technology programs.

Commissioner Jerry Reinartz asked Harrington if she had an idea on why there has been a significant increase in the number of members rising in 4-H, and whether there were more rural children than urban children participating, as he had heard that there were more urban participants within recent years.

“I’d say it’s 50/50 as a pretty even split,” Harrington said. “I’d say there are kids who are sharing about their 4-H experiences through word of mouth or asking their friends to join. A lot of (the increase) has to do with outreach and we got 13 new members enrolled. The kids are also getting family involved.”

During the session, there was also a discussion about rural mental health as learning about how the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Mower County could do more in providing access to resources for those who needed help with mental health concerns.

The Bridge, community mental health updates

Scott Delaney, manager of The Bridge, shared that the space has been used frequently, with more than 100 people having come in to use resources.

“Thanks for supporting the funding for The Bridge,” Delaney said.

“It’s such a haven for people to go to,” Gabrielson replied.

Also visiting the county was Sandy Ferrell, who was part of the Local Advisory Council to give updates on the community mental health wellness within the community and what residents were searching for when it came to services and assistance.

Some of those issues included providing more barrier-free housing for individuals who may have felonies on their record after undergoing a mental health crisis or poor credit, a homeless shelter where those looking to find long-term and permanent housing can stay while searching, and more free dental clinics where those with dental needs could be treated.

“There are adults who have been waiting six months for dental care, and we know the impact of dental hygiene can have on people,” Ferrell said. “We really need to address the mental health staffing shortage, with a lot of primary caregivers going to urban areas for more opportunities. A lot of patients need to start over once their doctor leaves, and their new caregiver may have a different opinion on medications, or not approve you for your prescription.”

The commissioners agreed on the current state of healthcare in Mower County, but believe it’s not a unique situation.

“This is happening all over the state,” Gabrielson said. “It’s not getting addressed.”