Crisis home to open soon
The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors heard an update today on progress being made to help mental health patients in the area.
Ben Wright, executive director of Tenco Industries, told the supervisors he is close to finalizing a plan to convert a house in Fairfield into a crisis stabilization home, where people in crisis can stay for up to 10 days.
The crisis stabilization home would house up to five people. Codie Amason, director of operations at Tenco, said she anticipates hiring six additional staffers, including a crisis home operator, once the home is open. Wright told the supervisors he expected to close on the sale Friday, but Amason said that was held up because of missing paperwork. Wright said that after Tenco closes the sale, the home will be ready to take in people in a couple of weeks.
Tracy Liptak, regional clinic director of Optimae LifeServices, told the supervisors there is an acute shortage of mental health services across the state, particularly a shortage of hospital beds.
“We’ve been fortunate in Jefferson County to have good support for our mental health services,” she said. “What we’ve worked on in the last year is building our program to provide more crisis prevention and assessments.”
Each county in Iowa used to have its own mental health department, but the state consolidated those departments into mental health regions. Jefferson County applied to the state to keep its own department but that was turned down. The only option left was to join a region, which Jefferson County did by coming on board to a collection of counties in southeast Iowa.
“A lot of good things have come out of that partnership,” Liptak said. “Optimae has put a lot of focus on crisis stabilization. We’ve been very busy with training personnel, planning programs and crisis intervention.”
Optimae, Tenco Industries and local mental health professionals have many improvements in mind for treating mental health patients. One of their plans is to provide crisis assessments and interventions beginning Aug. 1. Jefferson County mental health program administrator Sandy Stever said the program is designed to reduce the incidence of mentally ill patients going to jail first and then being evaluated while in custody.
“Other communities have started programs called ‘jail diversion,’” she said. “While we are not doing that, this would be like a first step.”
Also beginning Aug. 1, five therapists will be working in the Jefferson County Health Center’s emergency room to provide mental health assessments.
The idea for the project was sparked at a meeting around nine months ago between Stever, Optimae and Tenco. Several counties are involved. The crisis house in Fairfield will be one of two houses in the region—the other is in Burlington. The house will be open to patients from the other counties involved with funding the program. Though Medicaid may be billed for some of the treatments involved, the project is largely funded by a grant.
In other news, Jefferson County resident Thomas Farr asked the supervisors to approve a replat of Prairie Lakes Subdivision Phase 2, off Walton Road. Supervisor Dick Reed looked at the plat and questioned whether a fire truck could turn on one of the roads leading into the subdivision because it was such a sharp turn.
“There is no way we get a big fire truck around that curve,” Reed said.
Supervisor Lee Dimmitt agreed that the plat should be altered to allow for fire trucks to enter, rather than change the road after it’s already been put down.
“Trying to close the barn door after the horse is gone doesn’t work so well,” he said.
Farr said the city council approved his plat so he assumed it was fine. The supervisors voted to table Farr’s request until he had a chance to speak with Fairfield Fire Chief Scott Vaughan.
Vaughan came to the meeting later in the morning to tell the supervisors the road should be wider. He also told them that, because of the size of the homes being built in the subdivision, the fire department would not need to take its ladder truck, one of its largest, on that road to fight a fire.