Linn County Mental Health Access Center seeing increasing need for services

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 7:35 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - In a health emergency, you go to the emergency room. In a mental health emergency, Linn County’s new Mental Health Access Center is now the answer. It’s been open for nearly two months now.

Erin Foster is the director of the new facility, and she’s now seeing a busier center with a new addition: taking walk-in patients.

“Many of them were really just in need of that immediate crisis care,” Foster said.

The center initially opened using the Foundation 2 Mobile Crisis unit.

“The difference between Foundation 2′s mobile crisis staff and the staff we have here on site is mobile crisis goes to you. Here are you technically come to Foundation 2. It’s the same type of service,” Foster said.

Adding the walk-in service tackles one of the biggest issues the new center aimed to fix: quick, easy access to mental health care.

“A lot of times some of the services we have you need to go see your primary care physician or you need to wait in order to get into some of the other services in the area,” Foster said.

Eventually, law enforcement will use it, too, as an alternative to jail.

“There’s a lot of resources that had the funding stripped and so the resort is to call the police,” Brooke Bige, Marion Police Department’s mental health liaison, said. “Being mentally ill is not a crime, and it is difficult for people in our community to navigate through the mental health system.”

However, a goal of the center is to tackle that and other issues as it grows to full capacity.

“A service like the access center really does both. It gives us an opportunity to talk about the need for services, talk about why it’s important for people to reach out, and why it’s OK to not be OK,” said Foster.

Walk-in services at the center are open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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