By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
Out with the old and in the new and that’s just what Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center intends to do with its new office space at 221 Kingston Street.
The center’s current building on Marshall Street is no longer adequate enough for the services the center provides, but that all changes at the end of April.
“I think I was here in 2005 in the current space now and nothing has really changed over there,” Executive Director Erik Sievers said. “We had to update what we had or do something different.”
Enter City of Caledonia officials, the EDA, the Chamber of Commerce and contractor/building owner Norm Snodgrass.
“When I would walk into the original office they have been in for 30 years, I was like, ‘Why has no one built these guys a facility?’” Snodgrass said. “I talked to the city officials and said they need a permament home, what do you got?”
Work began in August 2019 and since then, the 1925 building on Kingston Street has been updated, remodeled and is almost ready for paint, flooring and trim.
Snodgrass said the building was in rough shape when he started the work, but this building has come along the best.
The total project cost is about $60,000 to $80,000, which will be relieved by a few small grants, a grant from the city to shape up the exterior of the building and a grant from the Arlin FalckFoundation.
“Between city officials and the EDA, Chamber of Commerce, a lot of people are really working hard,” Snodgrass added. “The small downtown community was pretty dead, but finally we’re repurposing the office structure and it’s slowly making a comeback. It’s been a pleasure being a part of this.”
And it’s for a good purpose. Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center serves kids and adults in its five centers throughout the region or with in-home services.
“The new space gives us room to add services,” Sievers said. “We can provide therapy in schools, substance abuse needs, mental health needs in the home ... psychological testing, psychiatric services.”
The new space also features a large conference room, which will allow for tele-therapy services through a video connection.
Six offices will be home to the staff in Caledonia – a combination of therapists and substance abuse counselors – and allow three to six staff members to go into the community for out-patient services.
The employees are especially excited about the new space and so are the clients. Sievers said they surveyed the clients who come to the center’s current location and asked what they would want in a new space.
“We thought to design it to best meet the needs of people that see us currently,” he said.
One of the needs that stood out was a need for privacy and confidentiality, and so Snodgrass remodeled the building with specific features.
All office doorways along the hallway are staggered so clients won’t automatically see someone across the hallway from them, the duct work is curved so that sounds bounce off barriers and do not get carried into other offices, the walls are well-insulated for sound reduction.
The center has had a presence in Houston County for more than 50 years, Sievers said. Originally, it started with services in three counties: Houston, Winona and Wabasha.
By keeping a local center in Houston County, the travel barrier is broken down for people who need access to the services without having to travel to a larger city.
“We’re excited about a new space. It makes you feel good,” Sievers said.
The move-in date is scheduled for April 27, 2020. Look for more information about an open house event soon.
Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center provides mental and behavorial services to people in Houston, Winona and Wabasha counties with five offices in Caledonia, Rushford, Winona, Wabasha and Red Wing.
The center first opened in 1965 in Winona and it currently operates as a non-profit organization.