Minnesota Welcomes New Mental Health Treatment Center in 2015

By John Lavitt 12/30/14

The Birch Tree Center will open in January to meet the rising demand for mental health care in the state.


When it comes to mental health and substance abuse treatment in Minnesota, the major player has always been Hazelden. But with several counties and tribes lacking mental health support, a new regional mental health treatment center is scheduled to open on Jan. 23, 2015, to fill the gap in care.

The 12-bed Birch Tree Center will serve six counties and three tribes in Northeastern Minnesota, according to David Lee, director of Carlton County Public Health & Human Services. The counties and tribes comprise Adult Mental Health Initiative Region 3 in the state.

The center is the product of more than two years of collaboration among hospitals, police, tribes and government officials. With a tranquil setting, the atmosphere of the Birch Tree Center is designed to be supportive. People who stay at the center will be treated as guests rather than as patients or clients, and they will be able to leave whenever they like. “We’re trying to reduce the stigma of mental health and be more welcoming," said Linda Curran, the adult mental health supervisor for St. Louis County.

If a crisis situation does not require hospitalization, the Birch Tree Center will provide a three to five day transition period. Laura Nechanicky, a licensed marriage and family therapist who will be running the center, said the maximum stay at the center would be 10 days. Nechanicky explained that the Birch Tree Center would provide a safe place for non-suicidal patients to address a mental health crisis. It will also be a transitional place for people who have been discharged from hospital care, but still require support to make the transition back to everyday life.

In addition, the Birch Tree Center will also serve as a site for mental health urgent care during business hours, and will offer a mobile crisis team for the entire region. The center is designed to address the problem for people in trouble that are being hospitalized despite not needing hospitalization.

The demand for mental health care in Northern Minnesota grew after another treatment center, also in Duluth, closed in June 2012. By offering services to the uninsured or underinsured, the Birch Tree Center is a welcome addition to the community. “We’re trying to bring services back home,” said Curran.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.