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Iron Range among rural areas feeling shortage of mental-health specialists

ALSO: Farm Bill blew up on purpose, Peterson says; drought takes a shot to the shins; Northfield film fest features Hitchcock; and more. 

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Virginia’s Range Mental Health Center is one of just a few facilities providing mental-health services in Northern Minnesota.

The need for psychiatric professionals is great, and it is greatest in rural counties, according to a report by the Health Resources and Services Administration. John Lundy of the Duluth News Tribune does a nice job showing the local face of the problem by interviewing Karen Pajari, a 71-year-old psychiatrist from Ely who has more than 800 patients. She shares the load at the Range Mental Health Center in Virginia with a nurse practitioner, Pam Jarvis, who has more than 700 patients. Those two are the only ones authorized to write prescriptions at the center. Even worse are the number of practitioners for child and adolescent psychiatry: No child/adolescent psychiatrist practices on the Range. Leaving psychiatric care to primary-care physicians is a problem because there is a shortage of those doctors as well, and patients’ problems are very complex and require strong medication. Pajari would like to see more help from doctors in Duluth and International Falls, but she’s not holding her breath. She’s been around a long time and the situation has gotten worse, not better.

Congress willfully blew up the Farm Bill, says Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Agriculture. Will Beaton of the Fargo Forum attended a visit to the University of Minnesota-Crookston campus by Peterson and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to discuss the bill, which was voted down in the House after having been approved in the Senate. Peterson, D-Minn., the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Agriculture, said last-minute additions to the bill involving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps to needy citizens, helped kill the bill. He said he made a deal with Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, to include the food stamp cuts in the bill with the understanding they would be removed in conference. But then the SNAP funds became a focus of the bill and the deal fell apart. Peterson said passing a new bill is his main focus now. Klobuchar often interjected with bits of optimism. She said Congress has the potential to think clearly and come up with a compromise that won’t endanger the nation’s farmers. “Amy’s right,” said Peterson. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, the southern portion of the state is awash in water, which is a nice change from the drought problems of recent years, writes Fritz Busch of the New Ulm Journal. The U.S. Drought Monitor says the heavy rain last weekend erased drought conditions across much of the upper Midwest, although now fields and roads in low areas remain underwater. University of Minnesota Nicollet County Agriculture Extension Agent Christian Lillienthal said excessive rain, up to 20 inches in some areas the past two months, often causes corn roots to grow too shallow, which could cause plants to dry out because roots don’t extend to levels where there is year-around moisture. About 6 inches of rain fell in the Gaylord area last weekend, which larger amounts to the north and east. Sibley County commissioners approved a resolution declaring a flash flood event for Saturday, June 22. The action helps make the county eligible for state and federal emergency funds.

For its second annual film festival, Northfield organizers have chosen several films by Alfred Hitchcock, writes Ashley Klemer of the Northfield News. During the festival, Northfielders will see some of Hitchcock’s classics and discuss them in seminars led by faculty experts. The first seminar will be led by Carol Donelan, the chair of media studies at Carleton College. The second will be led by Eric Nelson; the third by Jim Holden; and the fourth by Pierre Hecker. All four movies will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights at the Weitz Center Cinema at Union Street and Third Street and are free. The lineup will be: “Vertigo” on July 9; “Shadow of a Doubt” on July 16; “North by Northwest” on July 23; and “Psycho” on July 30.

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The staff at Willmar Senior High is preparing Apple iPad tablet computers so every student will have one by the first day of school, according to the West Central Tribune. Last year, school officials were pleased with the results of having iPads for every junior and senior, and now will expand the program to grades 9 and 10 as well. Students use them to read textbooks, prepare presentations for classes and turn in homework. Special-education students can use them to communicate with their peers. Teachers have developed locally written textbooks. Coaches record team stats. The iPad initiative was paid for by the district’s capital equipment budget along with more than $300,000 raised through the iCardinals Campaign last year.

Two of Mankato’s largest buildings were imploded Saturday to make way for new construction, reports Brian Ojanpa of the Mankato Free Press. The twin 12-story Gage Towers, dorms at Minnesota State University, took 12.23 seconds from the time of implosion to becoming 3-story piles of rubble.

Ojanpa was also on hand for Henderson’s annual sauerkraut-eating contest. On Sunday, emcee Denny Graham presided over the crowning of a new caliph of cabbage in a beer tent. The contestants included sauerkraut virgin Rick “The Mexacutioner” Rodriguez, a guy in a gorilla suit, defending champion Cliff Gorman garbed in a superhero outfit, and a man done up in a Jolly Green Giant outfit. The final contestant was an ersatz Elvis who answered the emcee’s questions with Presley song titles. “How you feeling today, Elvis?” “All shook up.” And so on. As the eaters took their places, one became ill.  A quick plea was made to several former champs on hand to fill in. Brian Schneewind, who once downed two pounds of kraut in 60 seconds, took the stage and the contest commenced. Schneewind finished his plate in 67 seconds. Turns out, the “illness” had been a set-up, a ruse to entice Schneewind to the stage for one more legendary gulpdown. What’s his secret to killing a plate of kraut? “I don’t know,” he said, his $100 winnings in hand. “I’ve just always been able to eat fast.”