Mobile mental health crisis response service debuts in southeast Iowa

The service is active in Jefferson, Keokuk, Louisa and Washington counties.

Sandy Stever
Sandy Stever

Four counties in the Southeast Iowa Link Mental Health and Disability Services Region now have a mental health crisis mobile response.

The mobile response service debuted on Memorial Day, May 25, and is active in the counties of Jefferson, Keokuk, Louisa and Washington. Jefferson County Mental Health Administrator Sandy Stever, who is in charge of the program, said the program debuted in those four counties because those are the closest to the provider’s home base in Johnson County. The provider is CommUnity Crisis Services. She said the other four counties in the SEIL region — Henry, Van Buren, Des Moines and Lee — will receive the service, too, just at a later date to be determined.

In normal times, the mobile response service will involve a mental health counselor visiting with a patient in-person after learning they are in a crisis. Stever said that, because of coronavirus concerns, consultations are being done over the phone for the time being.

To speak with a member of the mobile response team, a patient or family member merely needs to call the 24-hour mental health hotline: 833-854-7613, where they will then be connected to a dispatcher. The dispatcher will take down the person’s address and other relevant details to pass along to a mental health counselor. The counselor will then meet with the patient in person within one hour of their call. Because of coronavirus, this instead has meant the counselor will provide a phone consultation within an hour of the initial call.

Stever said that 911 dispatchers in the four select counties have been educated about the mobile crisis response service so they know that sending a mental health counselor is an option instead of sending law enforcement to handle a situation, or perhaps to know that they may send a counselor in addition to law enforcement.

Stever said the counselor will help the patient set up an appointment, assist them in going to the emergency room, or possible connect them to the crisis home available.

“We can do a variety of things with that person besides having to send them to a psychiatric hospital,” Stever said. “Our goal is that maybe these counselors can assist a person without bogging down an emergency department. As long as the person is not suicidal or homicidal, the counselor would be able to intervene.”

Stever said there are about 30 counselors in all who are employed over the four counties. She said all of them are people who are working another job on top of their counseling responsibilities.