The health of Linn County residents is a priority for the Linn County Board of Supervisors. This is evident in the creation of the Linn County Mental Health Access Center. (MHAC) The existence of these centers is a new concept in Iowa. Spearheaded by Supervisor Ben Rogers, the MHAC was opened a year ago.
Foundation 2, under the direction of Emily Blomme, has been instrumental in assessing an individual who comes to the MHAC as to the type of services that are appropriate. This triage and screening process directs the person to the wide range of services offered. Crisis stabilization might be the first step.
Mental health care is available. As well as counseling, referrals are made to programs that fit the needs of the person with mental health issues. There is counseling for substance abuse also. There is an emphasis on recovery from addiction. Provider appointments can be arranged as well.
Support systems are part of the needs of MHAC clients. Peer groups and support networks are helpful. In addition to services provided the MHAC, there is a learning process in ways to navigate the available resources.
Each client is unique. Intensive evaluation is necessary to make productive and consistent use of the resources of the MHAC. The Access Center has served 464 clients this year. People of all ages have taken advantage of the program, most being 29-43 years old.
The MHAC has been very effective in diversion for clients who might end up in jail or days waiting in an emergency room. Clients who were asked what outcomes they expected without the MHAC expressed they would have remained untreated.
The MHAC has had a monumental impact on Linn County residents with mental health and substance abuse issues. However, there have been challenges to having optimum services in place. The workforce shortage presents major problems for the MHAC. The shortage of nurses has caused shortened hours of operation. Lack of reimbursement for EMS to the Access Center has caused difficulties.
Sustainability is paramount. The demand for available beds exceeds the supply needed for quality care. Lack of sufficient funding will always be a concern for the MHAC, with supplemental funding to providers.
There is a sliding scale for services, but walk-ins are welcome. The MHAC is located at 501 13th Street NW. It is open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week.
Linn County is fortunate to have the Linn County Mental Health Access Center with Erin Foster as director. It has played a very important role in the care and treatment of those who struggle with these issues.
Helane Golden lives in Cedar Rapids and is a retired special needs teacher who was a lead teacher in Cedar Rapids schools for 33 years.