With almost half of its $1.1 million fundraising goal, the Youth Service Bureau is beginning a process of program expansion starting in Cottage Grove.

Executive Director Bob Sherman said they started the effort to collect grants last August, and

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in that time $695,000 has been donated or pledged.

The Otto Bremer Trust awarded the bulk of the newfound funds with a $200,000 grant and another $200,000 match for funds raised in 2017. The Youth Service Bureau is a quarter of the way toward the matching grant with a $50,000 3M donation.

The grants will fund new hires at the Cottage Grove, Woodbury and Stillwater Youth Service Bureau branches.

Sherman said they plan to hire three new chemical health specialists and three therapists, as well as adding to youth and family education coordination, parent education programs, IT and maintenance on the Cottage Grove building.

The Youth Service Bureau has a full-time staffer in Stillwater schools and a therapist at a Stillwater alternative learning center, along with a crisis response team. Sherman said they want to replicate that system in Cottage Grove and Woodbury.

They have posted a listing for a therapist in Cottage Grove and hope to post a second therapist position for Woodbury this summer.

Sherman said they are expanding in part because younger kids need services as well as having to serve a greater range of issues including bullying, social media problems, anxiety and depression.

"We're seeing the age of the kids that come in to the therapists decrease considerably; we're seeing kids come in as young as 4 years old, kids 9, 10, 11, 12 years of age," he said. "We see their families need more (help) as well."

The expansion will also focus on growing the chemical health program, concentrating on substance abuse prevention in schools with kids who have been identified as at risk by teachers or family.

"Ounce of prevention, pound of cure," Sherman said. "We'd rather work with these kids before they're addicted."

The new hires will also help the Youth Service Bureau prepare for growth in the city and demographic change along with it. Sherman said they are searching for therapists with experience working with minority groups.

During the expansion, they will also work with the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation on a study looking at "overall and organizational outcomes" and change the way they look at results, Sherman said.

"We want to completely revamp the way we measure the outcomes," he said.

The Youth Service Bureau will continue to raise funds for its program expansion goals through grants, gifts and more.

In May, they will hold the annual gala in Lake Elmo, where funds received will be added to expansion totals.


Editor's note: This story is from January 2017.