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Although Iowa has made attempts to improve its behavioral health care delivery system, the system remains fragmented and is in need of more – more financial resources, more health care providers, more access points for patients needing services and more community resources to keep behavioral health patients healthy. Hospitals see this need every day when patients in need of behavioral health services arrive in emergency rooms (ERs) as a last resort, and only hope for treatment. However, most hospital ERs are already overloaded and are not equipped to provide sufficient care for mental health patients.

What’s often needed are crisis-intervention and short-term, sub-acute care as well as post-acute care that allows patients to transition back into their communities. These services are currently difficult to find in Iowa, but where they do exist, they help ensure patients receive the right care close to home.

One place where such care is available is Oak Place in Centerville, where a coalition from Mercy Medical Center-Centerville, Appanoose County, law enforcement, District Court and others have worked together to implement this effective solution. As a “stabilization home,” Oak Place not only provides therapy, but also helps identify and meet immediate needs for local residents in crisis, including shelter, food and clothing. Most importantly, working with on-call licensed therapists, the local ER and jail can request a mental health screening at any time, ensuring that patients have their needs identified in a timely fashion and then met in an appropriate care setting.

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