The Mental Health Access Center serves the community

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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. Led by supervisor Ben Rogers, the MHAC was opened a year ago.

Foundation 2, under the leadership of Emily Blomme, has been instrumental in assessing a person who comes to MHAC as to what type of services are appropriate. This triage and selection process directs the person to the wide range of services offered. Stabilizing the crisis could be the first step.

Mental health care is available. In addition to counselling, referrals are made to programs that meet the needs of the person with mental health issues. There is also counseling for drug addiction. The focus is on recovery from addiction. Appointments with service providers can also be arranged.

Support systems are part of MHAC’s client needs. Peer groups and support networks are helpful. In addition to the services provided by MHAC, there is a process of learning how to navigate the resources available.

Each customer is unique. Intensive evaluation is necessary to make productive and consistent use of MHAC resources. The Access Center served 464 clients this year. People of all ages have taken advantage of the program, with most being between the ages of 29 and 43.

MHAC has been very effective in diverting clients who might end up in jail or waiting days in an emergency room. Clients who were asked what results they expected without MHAC indicated that they would have gone without treatment.

MHAC has had a monumental impact on Linn County residents suffering from mental health and addiction issues. However, there have been challenges in having optimal services in place. The labor shortage presents major problems for the MHAC. The shortage of nurses has reduced opening hours. The lack of reimbursement for EMS at the Access Center has caused difficulties.

Durability is paramount. The demand for available beds exceeds the supply needed for quality care. Lack of sufficient funding will always be a concern for MHAC, with additional funding for vendors.

There is a sliding scale for services, but walk-ins are welcome. MHAC is located at 501 13th Street NW. It is open from 8 a.m. to 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. He has played a very important role in the care and treatment of those struggling with these issues.

Helane Golden lives in Cedar Rapids and is a retired special needs teacher who was a lead teacher at Cedar Rapids schools for 33 years.

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