When it comes to addressing the mental health needs of residents, Hutchinson and McLeod County face the same challenges as many other communities around the country. One of those challenges is offering patients comfortable, private surroundings to talk with mental health professionals.

With that goal in mind, Serenity Mental Health Services of Hutchinson is planning to renovate the 2,400-square-foot building at 225 Third Ave. N.W. for its new clinic.

Serenity currently operates out of a shared, rented space in the ReMax building at 255 State Highway 7 that has less than half the space of its planned expansion.

“We just need the space,” said Jacki Ruzicka, a therapist and administrator at Serenity. “It will be space that's all our own. We don't have to share it with anybody, we don't have to worry about people being there that shouldn't be involved in our day-to-day activities. A lot of things we do (are) confidential, so we can't have outsiders that are in our facility seeing what we're doing and what's going on with us.”

Along with more space and privacy, the new building will allow Serenity to increase its staff and potentially help more clients. While its current building has three offices for four therapists, a bathroom and occasional access to a conference room, the new building will have space for 10 offices, two conference rooms, two restrooms and two waiting rooms. There are also plans to hire two new therapists this summer.

Serenity is aiming to move into its new offices by April 1, and the expansion will hopefully help ease some of the mental health needs of local people who have had to travel to other towns such as New Ulm, Willmar, St. Cloud or the Twin Cities for help.

“If we can bring (patients) back and have some more local coverage for them, I mean obviously it’s going to save everybody time and coordination,” said Leah Lundgren, McLeod County Social Services supervisor. “Right now we’re short of psychiatric coverage. That’s the biggest demand for mental health services that my staff has given me within the county.”

“Mental health needs doesn’t just mean people that are placed in-patient,” Ruzicka said. “Everybody in this world needs to learn to take care of their mental health, because we all have mental health. We just have to learn how to take care of it, and that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help everybody just function day to day.”