- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Polk County wants to open a mental health crisis center for people who they believe don’t need hospitalization and shouldn’t be taken to jail.

Supporters say the center for individuals with mental health issues would be the first of its kind in Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1enqpB2 ). People, up to five or six at a time, could go there on their own or be brought in by family or police. They would be helped for up to 23 hours.

Lynn Ferrell, the top health administrator for Polk County, said it would cost about $1 million per year to run the center, which would be staffed by counselors and other professionals. It would be paid for by state and county tax money, but he said the center would save money that would otherwise be spent on hospital treatment or jail time.

“There’s a clear need for this,” he said.

The 23-hour center, which aims to be a place for people who display disruptive behaviors caused by mental illness, was inspired by a program in Texas called Haven for Hope.

“This is the missing piece,” said Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly, who noted the routinely full psychiatric beds at hospitals that force people to be thrown into jail. “There are so many people who need a cooling-down period.”

The Eyerly Ball mental health agency will coordinate the center. Cynthia Steidl, chief operations officer for Eyerly Ball, said the program would not replace the need for someone to be taken to a hospital if necessary. She said it would help determine the next step in areas such as counseling and medication.

The Iowa Legislature passed major changes two years ago that switched the state’s mental health system from county-based to a regional system. The changes encouraged crisis centers, though they’re not required.

The county wants to start the center, which would have chairs and no beds, by the end of June. Officials don’t have a location yet, though they’re looking at a space near downtown Des Moines.

“I’m pretty optimistic that we’re going to get it going, but there’s a lot of moving parts,” Ferrell said.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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