Pilot Program: Crisis Bed on High Demand

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A pilot program is underway in Linn County to give people who need mental health help a new place to stay.

Psychiatric beds are in high-demand right now as more mental health programs are experiencing cuts.

The program consists of a crisis stabilization bed or a crisis bed. Organizers said it is designed for about a three-day stay and free for people who have issues like depression or suicidal thoughts.

Many agencies came together to create it as a way to offer help in a time of need.

St. Luke's Kent Jackson said the new crisis bed is on high demand.

"I believe the day we found out it was open we put a person in there," Jackson said.

The administrative director of behavior health said it's designed for people who don't necessarily need to be in a hospital psych unit.

"It's patients that either are considered at-risk but not needing acute care inpatient, and we've also used it -- probably more we've used it as place to discharge inpatients when they no longer need to be an inpatient, but we're not feeling it's safe enough to send them home," Jackson said.

It's one simple bed in a residential house. Program organizers declined to take us there, citing privacy reasons. Dennis Dozier with the human service agency, Foundation 2, said people who go to the hospital or call their crisis line could get a referral.

"What we would do then, is we send our mobile crisis team out to do a further assessment of the individual at the hospital or wherever they are at," said Foundation 2 Interim Mobile Crisis Coordinator & Therapist Dennis Dozier.

Mental Health leaders in the community said the program is still a work in progress, but it's one that could help to resolve a growing problem.

"I think there has been some discussion with Abbe center, with the residential being closed. We are going through a lot of changes, but I think it basically is because of the lack of hospital beds in Iowa for folks with mental health," Dozier said.

Doctors hope this helps provide a little bit of relief for a shortage of mental health beds in local hospitals. It's an issue that's not just happening here in Iowa, but across the nation.

"We probably need, I'm going to just guess, maybe five of these beds, and you know what's going to happen here is so far, we've kept them full pretty much non-stop," Jackson said.

While the patient is using the bed, a staff member is providing care and helping that person learn more about community resources. Project leaders said if people in Linn County think they need some help from this program they can call the Foundation 2 crisis line at (319)362-2174.

Organizers said Linn County is funding the crisis bed.
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