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Clay County targets elder abuse

MOORHEAD -- The Clay County Commission on Tuesday endorsed using $290,000 in grant money to train law enforcement officers and other officials on how to recognize and address elder abuse.

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton, whose office will receive the grant money over a three-year period, said it isn't known how widespread the problem of elder abuse is in the county.

But he said nationwide it is believed as many as one out of four Americans will be victimized.

Some of the grant funds will be used to hire a coordinator as part of a restructuring of the county's victim/witness program.

The program has operated with one director, but under the change it will have a director and two coordinators.

One coordinator will deal with elder abuse issues, while the other will help handle the county's restorative justice program, an alternative to the juvenile court system that had operated under the Sheriff's Department.

Also Tuesday, the commission authorized staff to begin a process that will change the county detox center capacity from 16 beds to 10 beds.

Detox center usage dropped from 1,076 admissions in 2005 to 873 admissions last year.

Officials said the center typically sees fewer than 10 clients a day at a cost of about $400 a day per client.

Reducing bed capacity will reduce the number of workers required to be on duty. Tuesday's decision, combined with steps already planned by the county, will likely result in savings of $98,000 for the detox center in 2010, officials said.

In other business, the commission backed away from a plan to increase fees it charges for inspecting operations that offer food, beverages and lodging.

Officials had considered raising fees to match what the state charges, a move that would have raised the amount schools pay for inspections by more than 200 percent.

Restaurants would have paid 30 percent more under the plan.

Instead of boosting fees in one giant step, the commission decided to phase in increases over a number of years, with the aim that one day revenues will come close to covering the actual cost of doing inspections.

Currently, there is a net loss to the county of about $30,000. If county fees are raised to match what the state charges, the county inspection program would still operate at a loss of $6,000, officials said.

Although there won't be a general fee increase, county officials agreed to institute a fee of $25 per inspection for special events.