Johnson County GuideLink Center opening next month to help those with mental health, substance abuse needs

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:40 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Eastern Iowa will soon have two new places for those experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis to turn to for help.

A new mental health access center for Linn County is set to open any day now. Now, Johnson County’s GuideLink center is a month away from starting to take in clients.

The center offers a new solution for adults in crisis for mental health or substance use. Matthew Miller, the project manager for the facility, said the pandemic has put additional pressure on police and emergency rooms.

“When it comes to mental health issues we’ve seen numbers on the rise,” Miller said. “We really think this will be beneficial for keeping a majority of folks out of emergency rooms that don’t really need to be there, and keeping people out of the jail that don’t need to be there. This is a great third option.”

The center will have four main units, including those for crisis stabilization and crisis observation on the mental health side. The building also houses a homeless shelter.

“On the substance of your side of things, we have a mental detox, so people who are seeking to detox before they enter another type of treatment program. And, also, we just have a sobering unit, just primarily a jail diversion program,” Miller said.

Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel says calls for these types of issues are increasing and believes the center will help the wide variety of people they encounter.

“It will help whether it’s people dealing with anxiety or depression all the way to whether it’s self-harm or if they’re having a substance abuse crisis and they have a very high blood alcohol content or they’re wanting to find a place to get sober safely. Certainly, for people who are wanting that kind of help, jail is not the best place for them,” Kunkel said.

Kunkel added that he’s optimistic the long term services the center will provide will address the recidivism rates.

“A lot of folks that we encounter we run into over and over,” Kunkel said. “I think we’re all optimistic that there will be those people that we do see that reduction in those contacts we have.”

The center will be open 24/7 and can serve up to 38 people at a time, including 16 overnight beds for detoxification or stabilization. The goal is to be able to help as many as they can.

“One of the goals of the center is not to overly medicalize or overly criminalize folks who are suffering substance abuse and or mental health issues,” Miller said.

They expect to start offering services early next month.

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