On October 30, Spring Valley hosted a Greater Minnesota Regional meeting of the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC). The event was co-sponsored by the Southeast Minnesota League of Municipalities. Running from 2-8pm at the Spring Valley Community Center, the event offered informational sessions throughout the afternoon and evening, targeting topics of interest to city officials from the southeast Minnesota area.
Approximately thirty city officials attended throughout the afternoon, and several more showed up for the evening sessions. LMC Executive Director Dave Unmacht and LMC President Mike Mornson were on hand, and welcomed attendees to the event.
Unmacht stated, “The League of Minnesota Cities is a state association of cities. We have 833 of the 853 cities, so almost every one of them. Every fall, we host regional meetings around the state, and we happen to be finishing tonight in Spring Valley. We hold seven in the Greater Minnesota area, and one in the metro area. And in this particular case, we partner with the Southeast Minnesota League of Municipalities. We have guests from various associations, and we interact with the members, we make presentations, we have guest speakers, we do topical issues, we do legislative updates. It’s a way to engage, update and inform members on a regional basis.”
Spring Valley Mayor Tony Archer gave a welcome and opening remarks to kick off the event. Topics covered at this year’s event included an update on the programs under Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) by Kevin McKinnon, a legislative update (including LMC’s drafts of 2020 legislative policies), an update on Minnesota Housing in Greater Minnesota (from Ryan Baumtrog), and supporting mental health among First Responders. There was also time for questions on each topic, as well as networking time during breaks.
Dave Unmacht added that, “I think it’s 88% of our cities that are under 5,000 (population) so they don’t have the resources that a larger city like Rochester might have… so for us to know them, and them to know us, makes for better business.” A wide array of contact information and other resources was shared. LMC also operates a website with extensive resources for member city officials to consult.
One issue brought up was the opioid crisis. The number of deaths in the USA attributed to opioid misuse has been climbing rapidly in recent years. The speaker summarized how unneeded drugs are in almost every home, and pose a threat due to the risk of accidental ingestion, theft, or intentional abuse. He said any unneeded or outdated medications should not be simply thrown away, nor should they be flushed away (due to the contamination of water sources). He also said law enforcement collection sites work, but require an armed officer at each site to prevent theft. Each city was offered a supply of Deterra drug deactivation bags. When unneeded medications are put into the bag, and mixed with water according to the directions, they can then be safely discarded in regular garbage. Some cities have given the bags to First Responders, so that such drugs can be immediately collected at the time of a death or other emergency.
LCM information on supporting mental health of First Responders (police, firefighters, EMTs and any other emergency personnel) shows that studies have found these services often take a heavy psychological toll on the providers. This can lead to higher rates of depression, addiction, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One of the main suggestions is for cities to offer ways to “strengthen the emotional resilience” of First Responders, by offering and encouraging healthy coping skills such as exercise, and finding someone to lean on, whether that be family, friends, or a counselor. Many cities have begun offering an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides resources on this and many other areas of concern to employees.
Spring Valley council members Chris Danielson and Luan Ruesink said they were particularly glad for the information on supporting First Responders’ mental health. Ruesink stated, “I feel it’s very important to keep our First Responders healthy, happy and strong in their abilities to provide the services they do for our community.” Danielson agreed, and stated that First Responders need both the equipment to do their jobs, and the resources/knowledge to handle the life-or-death situations and stresses they face on a daily basis.