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Prairie City News

Mobile Crisis working in Jasper County, supporters say

Only 4 hospitalized, 1 jailed out of 43 calls

Mental health advocates in Jasper County attend a recent meeting at Skiff Medical Center in Newton.
Mental health advocates in Jasper County attend a recent meeting at Skiff Medical Center in Newton.

Crisis Go is working in Jasper County, supporters say. Since the inception of the mobile crisis response team in March, the agency has responded to 43 calls for service within Jasper County.

Part of an 11 county region, Jasper County has accounted for the vast majority of the calls for service. By providing access to trained mental health counselors who available within one hour the program aims to reduce strain on local law enforcement agencies while helping mentally ill Iowans get the treatment they need.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said Crisis Go has been a valuable asset to his deputies, allowing law enforcement officers to quickly dispatch mental health professionals to meet with residents who are in crisis. The sheriff’s office has been an early adopter of the program, utilizing Crisis Go on the first day it was active in Jasper County.

Halferty said having trained professionals on the scene eases the burden on deputies.

“When we do need them they are probably one of the most valuable resources we have,” Halferty said.

By providing trained mental health professionals, the program also allows law enforcement officers to avoid taking residents in crisis to the emergency room — a place where they’re unlikely to get the care they need, Jody Eaton, Central Iowa Community Services, (CICS) CEO said.

Instead, Crisis Go counselors can assess the scene and offer on-the-spot counseling services, easing the burden on overcrowded emergency rooms at local hospitals. Of the 43 calls for service that Crisis Go responded to in Jasper County, only one resident was taken to jail following an evaluation, and four were hospitalized.

“We are, there’s been a lot of diversions, from people going to the emergency rooms, and the repeated called to dispatch, and even individuals at times they end up in custody or something,” Eaton said. “We’ve been able to divert that, the percentages are pretty high.”

Five full-time case managers are on contract from Eyerly Ball Community Mental Health in Des Moines, with at least two available on call 24/7. Despite the success of the program, Eaton said she wants to keep local residents to know they call the crisis line, at 844-258-8858 at any time to receive crisis counseling. The trained operators who take each call will determine is counselors need to be dispatched.

“We would want anybody to call, crisis means different things to different people,” Eaton said.

No matter what an individual is struggling with, Eaton encouraged residents to contact the crisis hotline if they feel like they’re in need of assistance. Eaton, a member of the state’s mental health and disability commission, said she hopes legislation signed last year will increase the profile of mobile crisis services and lead to their availability statewide. She said it’s improved the quality of care for local residents.

“You’re definitely getting more effective service. You’re getting professionals and the crisis team out to where people are when they’re in the situation,” Eaton said. “We’re able to get them into ongoing service as well.”

Julie Bishop Gibson, who’s led a program to coordinate services between mental health professionals in Jasper County, said Crisis Go has been a game changer for mentally ill Iowans. The numbers officials are reporting for Jasper County are proof the system is working, Gibson said.

“It just makes you go ‘Whoa,'" Gibson said. “It’s just impressive how many times they can deescalate and connect to services without the emergency room.”

One of the biggest components of the program is even after the mobile crisis team has left the scene, case managers are still working to connect those individuals with services. Each case is assigned a case manager who works with the individual in crisis, matching individuals with mental health resources within the county, while keeping them out of the emergency room.

“The goal behind this is to get people access to quality mental health care without using law enforcement time and without sending folks to the emergency room,” Gibson said. “Many are not ill enough to get a bed at the emergency room.”

For Halferty, the program has allowed deputies to focus on other areas and has reduced the number of mental health crisis calls his department has received. For many individuals in crisis, the sheriff’s office has been the first line of contact, pairing those individuals with a case manager has been a boon for Halferty’s office.

“I know on a couple of incidents, with people we were very familiar with, people who’ve struggled with mental health for a long period of time, in those cases the team has been able to stabilize and provide assistance to that person,” Halferty said.

Halferty said it isn't ’t that deputies don’t want to assist residents struggling with mental illness, but giving residents the ability to contact the crisis line directly streamlines the process and allows them to receive the help they need sooner.

“I think we’re in good shape, and I think long-term we’re going to reap the benefits from it,” Halferty said. “The whole county, the whole community is going to benefit from it.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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