ST. CLOUD -- A new mental health initiative is underway in the St. Cloud area.

The United Way of Central Minnesota is teaming up with various organizations in the area including CentraCare and the Central Minnesota Mental Health Center to address mental health needs in the community.

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Scott Palmer is the Director of Clara’s House, an intensive program for kids ages five to eighteen. He says the number of people dealing with depression, anxiety, stress, and suicide risk is on the rise.

It's really clear that over the past two years this pandemic and some of the uptick in violence and things that we've seen in our country has really impacted people and it's been very disruptive. So, we've seen a real uptick in mental health referrals, people seeking out services, and people that really need services.

The initiative has been in the works for about a year, and as part of the launch, the United Way raised and donated over $144,000. This round of funding is targeted towards childhood mental health, caretakers, and senior isolation.

Larry Olness is the President and CEO of United Way of Central Minnesota. He says they are providing more than just a funding stream.

Our role is we've got to bring the folks together around the table and talk about the issues, identify the issues, and identify solutions that we can take action against like raising money, raising volunteers, creating advocacy, and working together.

Palmer says the first round of funding has already allowed for the hire of a suicide maintenance manager, increased risk screening, and coverage of therapy costs for people in need.

Olness says up next the initiative will work to raise more money, coordinate mental health services, and address gaps in services.

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