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Linn County Mental Health Access Center weeks away from opening it’s doors

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 5:34 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - After a few construction delays due to the pandemic and derecho, Linn County’s only mental health access center is weeks away from opening its doors.

“The mental health access center will be a 24/7, 365 location,” Erin Foster, the center’s director, said.

Foster said the center will be a place law enforcement and mental health agencies can take people instead of emergency rooms or jail.

“We know sometimes when people are in crisis, they can’t get the services they need in a timely manner, so this is a location where a variety of different services are all under one roof,” Foster said.

The center will have 10 inpatient beds, 5 sobering unit beds, and 6 recliners for detox and observation services.

Even before the pandemic, the need for mental health services was increasing and now Foster says with the pandemic and derecho, it has skyrocketed, but resources have not. Nicole Watters, the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s liaison with Foundation 2, and Charity Hansel, one of the department’s mental health officers, see the need for more resources on a daily basis.

“It’s just a variety of different services we can provide. Officer Hansel and I have had a couple cases where we’ve had some excited delirium and so we want to be careful on how we are approaching these individuals, and that we are making sure we are handling it the safest way possible” Watters said.

Since April 1, they’ve logged almost 400 new clients, not including recurring clients.

“We’re getting called over and over for the same individuals, but we really have nowhere to send them,” Watters said.

“Unfortunately, our hospitals are bogged down. It’s not uncommon for Nicole and I to come in with someone we think needs to be evaluated, and they boarded 8 or 10 mental health patients in the ER because the mental health units are full,” Hansel said.

However, they are hoping the center will provide some relief, and also lessen the number of recurrences.

“So, we’re hoping that the folks that don’t necessarily reach the level of danger to themselves or others, that we can get them to that crisis center to a crisis bed where they can take one or two or five days to diffuse get some resources in place,” Hansel said.

Tax dollars from the region that includes Linn and eight other counties are paying for the Access Center. Johnson County is also opening a similar facility, called the GuideLink Center, which will open in February.

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