Crisis program a bold step

s The Gazette reported on Oct. 2 (‘Iowa revamp of mental health, disabled services watched
 closely’) and Thursday (‘Abbe Center prepares to move dozens of residents’), funding cuts from Linn County Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services will negatively impact programs serving people with mental health and developmental disabilities.

One such program I’m very familiar with is the Mobile Crisis Outreach (MCO) program, which Foundation 2 has operated successfully since 2004. This program offers crisis response 24 hours a day to individuals and families in Linn County.

In fiscal year 2011, MCO crisis teams responded to 200 calls, helping people in their homes, schools and workplaces to resolve emergency mental health situations.

As the state looks to redesign mental health services, we are on the verge of losing a program that fills in where a gap has been identified – serving clients by responding to them on-site within 60 minutes, every day.

This program operates without any barriers to service; there are no restrictions on age, income or health insurance coverage.

The program was developed to save lives. It has saved lives. In addition, it has saved taxpayers and employers in this community thousands of dollars. For one, because Foundation 2 MCO services were provided that contained the problems and got the person to a service where the cost is much lower than for hospitalization. Second, it prevented all the costs, emotional and physical, that accumulate when a person dies by suicide.

Clients who have used the Foundation 2 MCO service have found it be very effective. A female client shared: ‘I definitely planned on ending my life last night and probably would have if MCO had not come out.’ A report back from parents who used the service included: ‘We are very thankful for MCO and feel the discussion with the MCO counselor was very helpful.’ The high success rate is twofold: outreach action of the team, with the professional going to the person in crisis; and follow-up that continues until the client is successfully connected with community services.

Such a program puts Cedar Rapids and Linn County on the cutting edge of crisis intervention services. Nowhere else in our community does this type of crisis intervention take place.

Preliminary recommendations on redesign of the state mental health system will be reported to state legislators by Monday. Please help us keep this program alive.

Talk to your state legislators now, and ask them to explore alternative means to restore full funding for this vital service.

Elizabeth M. Ray of Cedar Rapids is president of the Foundation2 board of directors. Comments: 


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