Co-creating Space for Self-Care and Community-Care in Cook County, Minnesota

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Co-creating Space for Self-Care and Community-Care in Cook County, Minnesota

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Cook County is in the northeast corner of Minnesota’s arrowhead region, bordered to the north by Ontario, Canada to the south and east by Lake Superior and the south and west by rural Lake County and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Its remote location and sparse population qualify Cook County as one of Minnesota’s few frontier-status counties. With an estimated population of 5,393, Cook County is among the least populous counties in the State of Minnesota (US Census Bureau, 2018). The year-round population of the county’s only city, Grand Marais, is just 1,351 (MNCompass, 2017). As a popular tourist destination, the number of people in the county varies greatly, reaching upwards of 75,000 during the busy summer months (Cook County, 2019). The racial and ethnic breakdown of county residents is 85% White, 1% Black/African American, 8% American Indian/Alaska Native, 3% two or more races, and 3% Hispanic/Latino. 40% of jobs are in leisure and hospitality and 13% of residents live below the poverty line (compared to 9.5% statewide average) (MNCompass, 2017). The Cook County Public Health and Human Services department recently completed a community health assessment which included two-year engagement process of reviewing local heath indicators, community surveys and meetings with citizen advisory council members, healthcare and other service providers. The resulting community health improvement plan identifies goals to improve health outcomes within the priority areas of behavioral health and healthy living access. Behavioral health care access is a priority issue within the community, particularly following the closure of the county’s only community mental health care clinic in late 2018. Rates of depression and anxiety are higher than state averages, nearly one in four adults (24%) in Cook County are diagnosed with depression, while 22% report a diagnosis of anxiety or panic attacks (Kjos, S.A., Kinney, A.M., Finch, M.D., Peterson, 2016). Among Cook County students, 43% of 8th graders, 52% of 9th graders, and 50% of 11th graders report feeling down, depressed or hopeless for several days or more (MN Department of Education,, 2019). The ratio mental health providers in Cook County to residents (1:1,080) is significantly lower than the statewide average (1:430) (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, 2019).


Professional paper for the fulfillment of the Master of Public Affairs degree.

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McIntyre, Alison. (2022). Co-creating Space for Self-Care and Community-Care in Cook County, Minnesota. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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