Dubuque County Approves New Critical Access Center

The Dubuque County board of supervisors has approved $125,524 to support a new mental health access center that will help meet a critical need in the region that the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque has been working to address.

As part of its Project HOPE initiative, the Community Foundation partnered with Hillcrest Family Services, Substance Abuse Services Center — Dubuque and Mercy Medical Center Dubuque to create a committee working to establish an access center for individuals with urgent mental health — sometimes referred to as brain health — needs. State legislation mandates six access centers across Iowa, but once the centers are in place, the one nearest to Dubuque County will likely be at least 90 minutes away.

“When we saw the opportunity to create an access center that would improve brain health care for our community, we jumped on it,” said Chris Corken, a Community Foundation board member who has driven conversation around the access center. “We are very fortunate to have providers who believe in collaborative work. There is always a challenge in creating something new, but our partners have been willing to dig in and do the hard work necessary to make this happen.”

Nine sub-acute beds and two crisis beds are available at Hillcrest’s Seippel Road location, with an additional four detox beds to be available in the community by 2020. “It is Hillcrest’s intent, with the support of the brain health committee, to be the lead agency for hiring and compensating the project manager or team, and the site for the access center,” said Julie Heiderscheit, president and CEO of Hillcrest Family Services. Hillcrest would perform behavioral health assessments and also support staffing for safety, security, medical assessment and maintenance at the access center.

Substance Abuse Services Center will conduct substance abuse assessments, provide a long-term counseling program and act as a contact point for referrals and transitions into and out of the center. Crescent Community Health Center will offer medical care, counseling, access to medications and access to federal substance abuse and brain health funds.

Some of those referrals could come from local law enforcement agencies who recently participated in mental health first aid training made possible by a grant from Telligen Community Initiative, which has funded much of the Community Foundation’s work around brain health.

Police often encounter people who are facing short-term mental health challenges or are in an immediate crisis situation, and the training helps police get those individuals the assistance they need before they engage in negative behaviors.

“An access center would give the Dubuque Police Department a great option in the community for people needing a little extra help beyond the traditional local options,” said Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing. “An all-hours access center would give officers a safe location to take community members who need someone to speak to, a chance to decompress, or a place to develop a long-term recovery plan beyond the traditional court-ordered mandated treatment, which is too often away from our community and the client’s support system.”

“This process falls directly within our mandate as a Community Foundation,” said Corken. The Community Foundation performed a community assessment in 2016, which outlined the need for improvements in local outpatient care for addressing brain health and substance abuse issues. “In my role as a foundation board member, I can reach out to providers, bring them to the table, advocate with the mental health region for funding and bring the process to the point where we could secure funding to hire a project manager. At that point we would step aside and simply participate as part of an advisory board.”

The search for a project manager begins with the funding approved by supervisors on Nov. 26. For more information, see the Telegraph Herald’s summary of the Nov. 26 meeting.

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