Areas of focus
To Opat, Hennepin County's greatest challenges are in human services. He is proud of the county's work that has helped reduce the number of teen pregnancies from 1,152 to 431 a year, a 59 percent decrease. Of late, he's spent a great deal of time on the county's shift from child protection to emphasizing child well-being. The progress to date is one of the things that excites him most.
Just a couple years ago, “staff received calls reporting child abuse or neglect 55 times a day. That's 20,000 cases a year," Opat said. “It is an astonishing number. The Board has had to begin a massive reform effort. We've hired more than 175 additional staff. It's an unprecedented commitment of tax dollars for one human service area. More work is needed, however. Keeping families from getting so deep in turmoil has to be the ongoing focus."
Opat credited Hennepin County's staff with the county's success.
“I think they should know their work is important," Opat said, adding he understands it can feel thankless at times.
Opat said he thinks Hennepin County's greatest strengths include the board's solid decision-making, adding the members aren't afraid to make tough decisions. During his tenure, commissioners voted to integrate library systems and plan for light rail.
“I feel very fortunate to represent the inner ring suburbs," Opat said.