Counselor shortage in schools worries health professionals in Rochester

Although school counselors are considered to be “first responders” to mental health concerns, last year Rochester had only one counselor for more than 8,500 elementary students, according to the Associated Press. Part of the problem is that, unlike Wisconsin, North Dakota and Iowa, Minnesota has no mandate to staff counselors at the K-8 and high school levels. Rochester Public Schools mental health services coordinator Denise Moody said another part of the problem is tight budgets, which require counselors to compete with teachers for funding. Rochester’s one staff counselor was funded with federal, not local or state money. This year the system is partnering with several community therapists to improve services to students.

A report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found that commonly used pharmaceuticals and chemicals are present in most of the state’s rivers and streams. Gunnar Olson of the Faribault Daily News reports that a survey of 50 rivers and streams found 58 chemicals. The most detected chemical was iopamidol, which is administered before an X-ray or scan. Other commonly found chemicals include sertraline, amitriptyline, venlafaxine and fluoxetine, all antidepressants, as well as the insect repellant DEET. The highest number of detections was in the Cedar River in southern Minnesota, the Crow River west of the Twin Cities, and the Minnesota River. The only river without contaminants was the Pike River, northeast of Virginia. The results were similar to a 2012 study. While the chemicals are at very low levels, the authors said the chemicals had “measurable effects” on fish.

MLK Day in Bemidji featured a discussion on race in the area. Grace Pastoor of the Bemidji Pioneer writes that about 50 people heard four speakers discuss their experiences with culture and diversity in the city. Tamika-Jo Andy spoke about feelings of isolation as one of the few people of color in her school. “I can remember feeling like the elephant in the room,” Andy said. Michelle Rutledge encouraged optimism. “If you want to speak up about injustice, do it,” she said. “But don’t forget to recognize and praise the good things.”

Officials have identified the woman who died in an ice-fishing house on Lake Wilmert on Sunday. The Fairmont Sentinel reports that the woman is Ashton Leigh Hendricksen, 21, of Granada. While the cause of death remains under investigation, five other adults were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Duluth Catholic schools are reorganizing, and it appears that the 94-year-old St. Michael’s Lakeside School is the odd facility out. Jana Hollingsworth of the News Tribune reports that the school has about 100 students, mostly enrolled in pre-kindergarten. There are about 600 students enrolled in Duluth Area Catholic Schools. Currently, each school is governed by individual parishes and operates with its own faculty, staff, administrator and advisory boards. Under reorganization, schools would share services, curriculum and some staff to combat declining enrollment and offer a continuum of Catholic education.

Joseph Edminster, 74, of Grand Rapids, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to one count of theft of government property – in his case, cutting more than 2,700 black spruce tree tops in the Chippewa National Forest. The Associated Press reports that between 2008 and 2014, Edminster made more than $24,000 by cutting the tree tops and selling them to wholesalers who flipped them to retailers for sale as Christmas decorations in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

The Austin Police Department and Mower County Sheriff’s office made 29 DWI arrests during the 2016 holiday enforcement period. The Austin Daily Herald reports that between Nov. 23 and Dec. 30, 2,407 drivers were arrested for DWI across Minnesota, down from the 2,502 in 2015. The highest blood alcohol concentration in Minnesota during the period was 0.38 in South St. Paul.

Nearly 350 snowmobilers gathered on Swan Lake in Nicollet County on Sunday to race their sleds and raise money for the Nicollet County Trail Association. Ben Farniok of the Le Sueur News Herald reports that the turnout was a record and raised $900 that will be used to clear trails that aren’t cleared by the state. The racers ran against the clock on a 1,000-foot track. The fastest racer hit 146.1 miles per hour.

The Steele County Courthouse is continuing to dry out after a water pipe burst in the attic last Tuesday, forcing services to move across the street to the Owatonna Fire Hall. Ashley Stewart of the Owatonna People’s Press reports that Steele County Administrator Laura Elvebak said ceiling tiles and carpet need to be replaced and the elevator is not working. The courthouse is more than 125 years old and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Lead shot was found in jerky produced by Nick’s Meats and Grocery in Hayward, forcing the state Department of Agriculture to issue a recall. The Albert Lea Tribune reports that there have been no reports of anyone getting sick from the pepper beef jerky, but the product has been removed from shelves at several Hy-Vee stores and Trails Travel Center in Albert Lea, and Jim’s Superfresh, and Ankeny’s in Austin.

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