Could BHU at CCMH become a Regional Health Center?


December 14th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

In an effort this morning to persuade the Cass County Memorial Hospital’s Board of Trustees to hold on to the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU), a suggestion was made by CADCO spokesman Hal Gronewold, to have the hospital apply to the Department of Human Services, to become one of a handful of regional mental health centers in the State. Gronewold said Atlantic has a lot to offer, as far as infrastructure, local and in-patient/outpatient services. By applying to the DHS, he says it’s possible the center could be located in Atlantic. Dr. John Bigelow, with the Southwest Iowa Mental Health System, clarified, by saying any regional center would primarily be for outpatient services, which is different than what the BHU currently offers. 

The new way of delivering mental health and disability services across Iowa has been studied for months, and the five-year plan will come before the legislature for review in the upcoming session. It calls for spending 47-million dollars for a complete system redesign. The idea is to move from separate systems in each of Iowa’s 99 counties to a regional system. Rik Shannon, with the Iowa Development Disabilities Council, says the idea has some people with disabilities concerned about convenience, in terms of accessing the services they need.  He says “Without having a clear idea what that regional system may look like, many people with disabilities worry about losing, for instance, the local points of access that currently exist.”

Supporters of a regional system say it would be more efficient in delivering services and more cost-effective. And Shannon points out that now, not all types of services are available in each county. He says “If we have crisis intervention services that are currently unavailable in a lot of areas of the state, then if we can get that early intervention to people, we could avoid more costly interventions that might occur later.

Under the current county system, he adds, there is a wide variance in quality and availability of services, because funding comes from local property taxes. If a redesigned system is passed by the Legislature, it would take about five years to put into place.

(Shannon’s comments are courtesy the Iowa News Service)