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Gov. Reynolds tours new Johnson County GuideLink Center ahead of Monday’s opening

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 12:22 AM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - The long-awaited GuideLink Center in Iowa City is set to start offering services with a soft opening Monday.

The access center will provide mental health and substance abuse assistance at its location on Southgate Avenue, beginning with law enforcement and mobile crisis next week and gradually expanding services.

The GuideLink Center is the result of years of collaboration from groups, agencies, and organizations including hospitals, law enforcement, EMS, mental health and substance abuse centers, and local government, partnerships lauded by Gov. Kim Reynolds after a tour through the new center Thursday, alongside Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia.

“To be able to come into a facility like this and have all of your needs met at one place and not sending you someplace else only to come back is just an incredible concept,” Reynolds said.

But in order for this center to be successful, its leaders said they will need help from the state, including financially.

“Because we’re this innovative model, our revenue is not going to support all of our costs,” Dr. Monika Jindal, the center’s medical director, said during a discussion with Reynolds, Gregg, and Garcia on Thursday.

Last summer, Reynolds allocated $50 million from the CARES Act to the mental healthcare system across the entire state.

She has also asked for $15 million in each of the next two state budgets to be set aside for mental health.

“And then already with the CARES 2.0, we have additional federal dollars that are coming in that will be designated to mental health as well,” Reynolds said. “So that will allow us to supplement the state funding that we’re putting in place in addition to what we already have going to the various mental health regions.”

Jindal listed financial sustainability and viability as one of three key areas in which the GuideLink Center would need assistance from the state to successfully serve its clients, which staff said would then take pressure off mental health agencies, hospitals, and jails.

The other two areas were workforce development and access to care and integration services.

In workforce development, Jindal said the center needs to be able to offer a competitive pay because they are concerned about staff burnout, given the nature of their work.

“We’re asking them to exist in a space that’s doing mental healthcare in additional to substance abuse care. That’s a really specialized skillset that we’re asking them to have, and we’re asking them to transition back and forth,” she said.

Jindal asked for flexibility with some current state protocol, like documentation requirements and restrictions on which employees can provide care, that she said might hinder their ability to quickly help their patients.

She said other standards are stopping them from being the innovative, one-stop-shop center they are aiming to be.

“One example is that if Johnson County ambulance right now is only able to transport folks to the emergency room. They’re not able to transport folks to somewhere like GuideLink Center,” Jindal said.

Reynolds said she wants to help providers like the center streamline their services as much as possible, explaining access centers around Iowa are one of the main pieces of the adult mental health reform the state legislature passed in 2018.

“Every time we’re not doing that, it’s a duplication of cost, and we’re not as effective or efficient as we can be, and that impacts the number of people that we can serve,” Reynolds said.

The governor said six total regional access centers are expected to be open across Iowa by the end of 2021.

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