Braham Minnesota has become Isanti County's home for child and vulnerable adult abuse advocacy.
The North Star Family Advocacy Center has been a long time coming for the county. It was initially the brain child of Chief Deputy Lisa Lovering who saw a need of child advocacy services in the area.
Before the organization was formed, the nearest resources for the Isanti County Sheriff's Department was either Duluth or the Twin Cities. The distance people needed to travel in order to get the services they needed often created a barrier between the survivors and the help they deserved.
Initially, a room was set up in the basement of the Isanti County Courthouse to do interviews, but as North Star's executive director Jeremie Reinhart believes, the location sometimes made it more difficult to get full disclosure from children.
Reinhart said, "Those sort of interviews at a court house, jail or sheriff's department aren't always the most beneficial to getting full disclosure. Often times when kids are going to those facilities someone isn't coming home from their family, or it can be intimidating to go to a sheriff's department."
The room in the courthouse was temporary, but they really needed to find a neutral location to make victims feel safe.
After the building they tried to secure in Princeton fell through, the organization approached Allina Health about potentially donating their vacant building in Braham.
"It came to our attention that Allina had a vacant clinic in Braham that might fit our needs nicely," said Reinhart.
The vacant clinic is located in close proximity to Pine, Chisago, Mille Lacs and Kanabec county, so they approached Allina about donating the building. The process to get the building took around six to nine months, and in December of 2016, Allina donated the building to them. Renovations on the new building began in March of 2017.
The goal of the North Star Family Advocacy Center is to streamline the process that child and vulnerable adult abuse victims go through in order to minimize further trauma.
North Star installed cutting edge technology in the building to make it so survivors only have to tell their story once. The technology put in place at the center allow for the interview with the victim to be recorded and then played back at anytime in the investigation with their identity concealed.
The organization has built themselves to be a one stop shop for child abuse cases. Survivors and their family's no longer need to go from one place to another for various services. Reinhart said, "We offer advocacy; our advocate meets with the parents while the child is being interviewed. Our advocate does follow up services; they fill out applications for reparations, reimbursement and set up appointments for mental health."
The center partners with Therapeutic Services Agency (TSA) in Pine City to provide individuals with mental health services. They have therapist that will meet with survivors at the center or at one of TSA's satelite offices, which ever is easiest for the person or family.
North Star also works with nationally renowned pediatrician and expert on child abuse Dr. Mark Hudson to do medical examinations. A video system makes it so Dr. Hudson can remain at his office in St. Paul and work with a local nurse to carry out exams.
The advocacy center is one part of what North Star calls their multidisciplinary team (MDT). To Reinhart, the MDT is what makes their group standout.
"We have a group of ultra caring people... and really that's the important part of building that team so we aren't replicating services."
Team development is important to North Star. They have plans to expand and work with the surrounding counties, but they need to know that they can support the abuse survivors before making any expansion.
Reinhart said, "We just don't want to open the doors, completely overwhelm ourselves and under deliver the services that our clients deserve."
The North Star Family Advocacy Center plans to start working with Kanabec county within the next year and then grow from there.
You can click the link below to listen to the full interview WCMP did with Jeremie Reinhart for this article.