New University of Iowa psychiatric unit aims to better serve those with mental health needs alongside other area resources

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 5:24 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A newly-remodeled psychiatric unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will also offer improved care for eastern Iowans, in tandem with other nearby resources.

“The space will just be a more therapeutic environment. There’s more room,” Jodi Tate, psychiatrist and vice-chair for clinical services in UIHC’s Department of Psychiatry, said.

Tate said that’s the feel patients will get in the new unit opening this month in Iowa City.

“We really encourage patients to come out of their room, so it’s not only their own space for a single room but they’re able to have much more room in general in the unit,” Peggy Nopoulos, the department’s chairperson, said.

Leaders have planned the unit in the Roy Carver Pavilion at the hospital for years. The opening is timely, as a year into the pandemic reveals more of a need for mental health resources.

“It’s been a challenging time for everybody with or without mental illness, but for individuals with mental illness, it’s even it’s been extremely challenging,” Tate said.

Tate said the number of patients seeking help for mental health has stayed consistent. Currently, UIHC has 73 inpatient psychiatric beds and 15 medical-psychiatry beds. 25 beds will be in the new unit specializing in eating disorders and mood disorders treatment.

While this new unit is not adding any more beds for mental health, Mae Hingtgen, the CEO for the Mental Health Services of the East Central Region said there may a need for more resources in the region.

“We’ll be monitoring utilization of those services to see if we need more,” Hingtgen said.

Hingtgen said the opening of Johnson County’s Guidelink Center in Iowa City and Linn County’s Mental Health Access Center in Northwest Cedar Rapids is helping fill that gap.

“It’s filling a gap between typical traditional outpatient care and inpatient psychiatric hospitalization,” Hingtgen said. “So should there at times be waitlists for inpatient psychiatric beds, that’s what were hoping to alleviate with the access centers.”

The Linn County center has 10 inpatient beds and 5 sobering unit beds. There will be 16 overnight beds for detoxification or stabilization at the Guidelink Center.

However, while they monitor what more is needed, Hingtgen said prevention and education remain the goal.

“We want to really help people understand whether it’s due to the pandemic or other issues that right now if I have some brain health concerns, there’s help for me and here’s where I can find it in our 9-county area,” Hingtgen said.

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