Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2014

Crisis stabilization home models successful

By NICOLE HESTER-WILLIAMS | Aug 27, 2014

Jefferson County Health Center patient and clinical care directors want to ease the minds of the public when it comes to Tenco’s new crisis stabilization home.

“Anyone seen as a danger to themselves or others will not be admitted [to the crisis home],” said JCHC Outpatient Director Curtis Smith. “Sometimes patients just need to be placed for 24 to 48 hours to help them get through a crisis they are dealing with.”

Tenco’s crisis stabilization home will only admit voluntary, physician-referred patients experiencing acute mental health crises. The home won’t be a long-term care facility for the severely-mentally ill or for anyone with a violent criminal history including registered sex offenders. Additionally, inebriated individuals will not be admitted.

“Other communities have had huge success with this model,” said Joneane Parker, JCHC vice president clinical services director.

“In fact, it has been so successful that it [the model] will be presented to Iowa Hospital Association’s annual meeting that’s held in Des Moines,” she said. “This isn’t unique to us; Iowa struggles with providing appropriate mental health care.”

Parker said mental health patients arriving at JCHC might “present” in several different ways. Some may voluntarily arrive, while others may be brought in for an Optimae LifeServices evaluation, or by authorities.

“All mental health patients are given a complete medical exam first by an emergency room physician to rule out other medical issues or the use of drugs or alcohol,” she said.

“Someone may have diabetes and behave strangely. We have to rule out anything else that could match or exaggerate a mental health issue,” Parker said.

Additionally, JCHC administrators want to clear up any rumors regarding the “lack” of hospital beds.

“No one is ever denied care; we will take care of anyone who walks through the door to the best of our ability,” Parker said.

However, she added that JCHC doesn’t have a resident psychiatrist. This fact prevents the hospital from admitting psychiatric patients.

“It’s really important to know that we do have mental health beds, but we don’t have a psychiatrist on staff,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want to treat those patients, we can’t.”

Now, if an individual is determined to require mental health treatment, an Optimae counselor may be brought in to evaluate. If that patient is deemed severe enough, he or she may be transported to an outside facility with a resident psychiatrist.

On the other hand, if an individual’s condition is less severe, that person may also be transported and released within 24 to 48 hours—a situation Smith calls costly and a disservice to the patient.

“Right now, without this home many people are being placed in a hospital setting who don’t need to be,” Smith said. “Is that really providing the best care for these people?”

Smith said it’s not.

The crisis stabilization home will be a type of intermediary facility for those who can’t get the care they need at home, but they don’t need to be committed to a mental health facility either.

“We have many, many people in the mental health community that do just fine on their own, but sometimes they need assistance,” Smith said. “This is not unique to our community.”

Since Optimae LifeServices counselors began working with JCHC, they have diverted around four possible hospital admissions; where some patients could have been transported to a facility as far away as Sioux City.

“In the first three weeks Optimae provided seven onsite visits and one by phone; we have diverted at least four admissions already and this is without the home,” Smith said. “We sent one to the Burlington [crisis stabilization] house; if we had our home, they could have stayed here rather than going to Burlington.”

Ben Wright, executive director of Tenco said the home should be ready in about two weeks.

“Right now, we have a couple things going on; we’re finishing up painting and the hiring process,” he said.

Tenco currently has a director for the home; however, it is in the process of hiring additional support staff.

“We’re going through process of ensuring everyone is happy regarding zoning,” Wright said. “If the city would like us to consider a waiver, we’d most likely do that.”

However, Wright believes the Fair Housing Act protects the crisis stabilization home.

“If the community fully understood what this would do for it, they would be behind it 100 percent.” Wright said. “It doesn’t pose a risk any more than any other home in the community.”

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