Karen Crabtree: "All the things I need are right here"

Karen Crabtree, Essentia Health

Karen Crabtree has always been passionate about helping people. That’s why the manager of Social Services at Essentia Health has worked hard for many years to get where she is today.

Karen was born and raised in Roseau, Minn., just 10 miles from the US-Canada border. A single mother at 16, Karen worked hard and graduated from high school in 2000. The next few years she moved around, first to Winona for a year to attend college—but the financial strain of being a mother and a full-time student caused her to withdraw—then to Iowa, where she obtained a job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) credential, then back to Roseau. Working in healthcare showed Karen that caring for people was her career goal.

The desire to continue her education while still supporting her family led Karen to move to Frazee in 2002. There, she could live in affordable housing, attend online college eventually at Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) in Detroit Lakes, enjoy the lakes area and the quality of life it brings and work full time. She married and had two more children while working as a CNA & TMA for seven years. She then decided to pursue a vocation in social work to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

After obtaining her associate of arts degree from M State, Karen continued her education at Bemidji State, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Social Services. She began her career as a social worker at Northern Connections in Perham and started working on her master’s degree in community development from North Dakota State University. After transferring to Essentia Health in 2013, Karen’s career took off. She was promoted from social worker to the manager of social services and community health in 2014. Karen developed community collaboratives including integration of the Becker County and White Earth Mental Health Crisis Team, a mobile mental health crisis team, into Essentia Health to improve access to services and patient outcomes. From 2012 to 2015, the team tripled the amount of calls it responded to, but reduced the number of emergency holds (when a person actively threatens harm and refuses treatment so are held until they get help) and civil commitments performed.

Living in west central Minnesota has proven to be very good for Karen. “All the things I need are right here,” she said. She moved to Frazee because there were plenty of healthcare jobs, affordable housing for a single parent, great school systems, and plenty of places to fuel her hobbies of fishing and hiking (she thinks she must have hiked every state park and reserve in the area). Once here, she realized that west central Minnesota has so much potential for a person to be successful. Plenty of jobs and lots of ways to advance your career meant, in her words, “The opportunities are endless.” Karen would know; she went from being a CNA to managing two programs in five years. Her passion, hard work, and living in west central Minnesota make it possible for people like Karen to succeed.

Steve Henning