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A collaborative effort to solve community-wide problems

Figuring out solutions to tough problems like driving under the influence of alcohol, bullying and untreated depression takes a community-wide effort. Otter Tail Family Services Collaborative tries to recognize and address these tough problems, with the understanding that a combined effort is stronger than a single effort.

The collaborative celebrated its 22nd year at its annual meeting held at the New York Mills School on May 2.

Made up of 185 individuals from 29 Otter Tail County organizations, the collaborative combines resources and expertise to help solve problems. Members work in fields ranging from education to mental health, and human services to community action.

Together, members of the collaborative began a program to help bring mental health counseling into schools, and another to send nurses on home visits for new moms, helping to identify post-partum depression. They have developed programs to deal with truancy in schools, and to prevent kids from going hungry over the weekend. They also offer educational workshops on things like adoption and identity, and coping with stress.

The collaborative helped 8,040 people in the county in 2011, according to its annual report. This number is 14 percent of the total population, or 25 percent of students, in Otter Tail County.

Since 1998, the collaborative has received a majority of its funding through a federal program called the Local Collaborative Time Study. The coordinator of Otter Tail's collaborative, Jane Patrick, said members participate in a study to help the government determine what "percentage of time teachers, nurses and probation agents spend working with at-risk children."

In exchange for data provided, the collaborative receives grant funds - a total of $6 million since 1998.

The group also regularly writes and applies for grants.