Willow Heights set to close


September 15th, 2021 by Ric Hanson

(Atlantic, Iowa) ā€“ Willow Heights, a 43-bed private, non-profit Residential Care Facility (RCF) on Atlantic’s southwest side, is closing, with officials working to find suitable housing for its residents, who are 18 and older, and unable to live independently because mental illness, intellectual disability, a pattern of substance abuse or other disabling conditions. The nearly 50-year old building, which is leased and run by Partnership for Progress, Inc., is owned by Cass County. It first opened as a County Care Facility in about 1973, and was privately leased to a non-profit agency in the early 1990’s.

Willow Heights RCF (photo via Partnership for Progress)

Cass County Board of Supervisors Chair Steve Baier told KJAN the news did not come as a complete surprise to him.

He says the model for mental health care is changing, and the funding streams for large settings such as Willow Heights, is not what it used to be. The finances are a lot better, he said, if those clients are placed in houses, but it’s not without a certain level of risk.

Baier says he doesn’t know what will become of the facility, what the property might be used for, or even if the County wants to continue to own property of that size. He said it’s a good, solid building, and has received consistent upgrades and a new roof.

Suzanne Watson, CEO & Director of Southwest Iowa Mental Health Disability Services (MH/DS) Region, based in Council Bluffs, told KJAN News SWIMS will be working closely with Willow Heights to find placement for the affected clients in Atlantic and surrounding communities. They hope to make it an easy transition for them as possible.

She said while in most of the cases where RCF’s are closing is simply due to downsizing from larger to smaller settings, the current employment situation in Iowa and across the country is another factor.

She said the main thing she wants people to know, is that Willow Heights residents will not be homeless and left to fend for themselves. KJAN News reached out to Willow Heights Administrator Julie Steffen for additional details on exactly when the RCF will close, but had not heard back as of the time of this post.