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Continued: St. Cloud police reach out to kids scarred by trauma

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 6, 2014 - 7:16 AM

The chief gave McConkey complete access to arrest reports and daily logs — things Greensboro’s advocate doesn’t immediately see. Anderson’s “graciousness” has been the key to the program’s early success, according to Lori Schmidt, director of the Central Minnesota Mental Health Center that employs McConkey through a grant from the Bremer Foundation and another family fund that wished to remain anonymous.

Anderson said the program is part of a “crime mitigation strategy” that should save money in the long run by “building better citizens who contribute positively as opposed to getting on that criminal justice merry-go-round and not being able to get off.”

St. Cloud cops nod to that notion, welcoming McConkey with open arms.

“For me, it’s a godsend,” said investigator David Missell, a 29-year department veteran. “Just look at my desk. I have lots of cases. I can get to the scene and make sure things are safe, and instead of worrying about finding resources for the family, I can say, ‘Talk to this man’ and head to my next case.”

A school resource officer suggested McConkey check in with the Eberles. She knew the kids from school and could see issues bubbling up.

“There is only so much we can do with the time we’re given, so it’s perfect to have someone like Paige who can help them find the help they need,” said officer Tiffany Thompson, who is assigned to Apollo High School, enrollment 1,300.

“Everybody has a different version of trauma,” she said. “It’s not always murder or suicide. I’ve referred cases where kids have had lifelong emotional neglect or abuse, constant yelling and nagging and made not to feel worth anything.”

With McConkey down the hall, she now has a place to turn. She just hopes the job doesn’t vanish when the grant money dries up. The first year is funded but the second year is pending.

“Lots of the things that start up always sound good on paper and in theory,” Thompson said. “I just hope it can be sustained.”

McConkey and the team recently traveled to Greensboro to compare notes.

“We told them we thought we were crawling,” Anderson said. “They said we’re not crawling, we’re jogging.”

Chris Bray, a former corrections commissioner, works with Gewirtz at the U. They will assess the results of the St. Cloud program.

“In the very short time it’s been operating,” Bray said, “I think the thing is really taking off.”

 

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

 

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