Scott County to expand mental health programs

The county plans to invest millions of dollars in 24/7 crisis services

DAVENPORT, Iowa - With $7 million to spend, it's a busy time for the CEO of Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services Lori Elam.  

"There's lots of new things that are starting," Elam said. "It's exciting. This is definitely a time of movement."

There's a long list of projects that the money will be spent on, but most of the items have one thing in common: around the clock crisis services. 

"People will have access to a counselor or therapist or a clinician 24/7," Elam said.  

Different Scott County agencies and local organizations were brought in to help decide how the money would be invested. Mental health center Vera French was at one of the initial planning meetings. 

"There's a lot of different providers in our area that have a lot of different perspectives, but we can all agree that the 24/7 crisis service is definitely a needed service in our community," said Vera French Chief Operating Officer Denise Beenk. 

The plan includes creating crisis stabilization beds, which serve as short term housing for mental health patients. It also includes a mobile crisis unit that will be able to deliver aid wherever people might be. 

These services are geared toward people who need mental help, but not at the level a hospital provides. 

"They need a place to decompress, to have someone to listen to them, to get a warm meal, to be assessed, to link them with resources and then get back on their feet," Beenk said. 

The current plan only looks about two years out. Once the county's savings account meets the new state requirements in 2020, spending will be re-evaluated. 

"Unfortunately when things get tight mental health funds are one of the first things that get cut so we want to make sure that they really are going to commit funding not only at the regional level, but at the state level, as well," Beenk said. 

It will be a while before any of the new programs are up and running. Elam said the spending first has to be approved by the county in March and then by the Iowa Department of Human Services in April.

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