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Iowa Reorganizes Mental Health Regions

Iowa has reorganized its mental health services into 15 regional authorities. Prior to July 1st, Iowa’s 99 counties were previously responsible for their own mental health system. The state’s leaders no longer want an individual’s address to determine the type of mental health care available to them. This change is also focused on keeping people’s mental health from worsening to the point where they wind up in jail or hospitalized because of behaviors related to their illness. This month, Des Moines is opening a new Crisis Observation Center, which will serve as an alternative for people who need help with mental health crises and are in immediate danger of harming themselves or others. Without the additional $6 million in annual funding that Polk County is receiving from the state after the redesign, the center would not have been possible.

However, Govenor Terry Branstand’s veto froze plans to start a computerized bed registry which would track when psychiatric bed where available. Like much of the country Iowa has a shortage in psychiatric beds and patients are sometimes forced to travel hours or wait for days for an available bed. This registry has been a top priority for Virginia Governor Creigh Deeds, after his son violently attacked him with a knife before taking his own life. Creigh’s 24-year old son, Gus, who suffered from schizophrenia, was brought to the ER under an emergency custody order. Gus was released only a few hours later because there were no psychiatric beds available. This month Virginia successfully passed a bill allowing for the creation of a real-time registry of psychiatric beds and increased the time someone who is civilly committed can be involuntarily held under a temporary detention order from 48 to 72 hours.

It is estimated that America will spend an estimated $38.5 billion dollars this year for mental health emergency room visits. This number has nearly doubled since 2003. Many of these visits could be prevented by providing more access to mental health services and psychiatric bed registries nationwide.

To read more on Iowa’s new mental healthcare changes and computerized bed registry, go to: