Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health plans expansion

By Kate Klimesh,

NEIBHC’s Executive Director Charlie Woodcock said they are currently in the process of purchasing a building and will focus their efforts to increase access to children’s behavioral health services by at least 30 percent within the next year.

Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health Center (NEIBHC) was recently awarded a grant to progress the center toward certification as a Community Behavioral Health Clinic. The grant will also support a much-needed expansion, increasing NEIBHC’s capacity to provide children and youth behavioral health services. Currently, NEIBHC is the largest mental health resource in the region, with offices in Decorah and Oelwein and satellite clinics in each of the five counties served.
The $952,283 multi-year grant – earmarked for substance abuse and mental health support across Iowa – was awarded in September through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) federal discretionary spending. 
NEIBHC’s Executive Director Charlie Woodcock said they are currently in the process of purchasing a building and will focus their efforts to increase access to children’s behavioral health services by at least 30 percent within the next year. 
“We saw a massive need for behavioral health services for children and families due to the pandemic – at least doubled. That pandemic changed the experience for most people. It was so stressful for families and children, for over a year, the kids couldn’t go to school, they couldn’t see their friends. It caused an impact on the kids and caused a lot of trauma.”
To better meet the need for behavioral services, Woodcock reported, “We are diligently working to open a clinic, hopefully in downtown Decorah, and hire specialists to focus on youth. We hope to hire at least 11 incremental program staff to enhance the service capacity, as well as four to five Case Managers or Service Coordinators, who will ‘meet the kids where they are’ and visit with them at their homes or in the schools to provide support and connect them with the resources they need. 
“Of course, right now recruitment is a challenge, but we’ve seen such a massive increase in the need for children’s and families’ behavioral health services. We are actively looking at adding the providers we need. The need right now is greater than the providers we have in our region.”
A Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) deals with more holistic approach to mental health. Woodcock noted, “A CCBHC takes a more holistic approach. They look at the person’s physical health and well-being, they look at trainings they can offer, and many different aspects to their treatment. The federal government has really pushed for that. While Iowa doesn’t currently have a certification process, but that is something that will be worked on toward implementation in the upcoming legislative session, so that’s really exciting.”
NEIBHC serves Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties for substance abuse services. The center is contracted with Allamakee, Clayton, Howard and Winneshiek counties for mental health services, and is a mental health provider in those counties as well as for Fayette County. The center is accredited by the State of Iowa, Department of Human Services and licensed by the Iowa Department of Public Health. NEIBHC is also a member of the Iowa Behavioral Health Association and the Iowa Substance Abuse Supervisors Association.
Stay tuned for more details on the Northeast Iowa Mental Health Center’s expansion in future issues of the Public Opinion. 

Mental health treatment options
The need for mental health and behavioral health treatment is greater than ever, that much is agreed. Unfortunately, many mental health and behavioral health providers are having trouble with retention and recruitment, “It can take a couple of weeks, sometimes up to six weeks to see a provider if it’s not an emergency crisis. The need is more than we can provide right now,” Woodcock noted.  
Most mental health centers are seeking Nurse Practitioners, Licensed Clinicians, Social Workers, Counselors and Abuse Counselors, who are under the direction and guidance of a psychiatrist as the Medical Director. Telehealth is also a way they can increase their capacity for treatment.
For someone seeking care, Woodcock noted that being in a psychiatric facility or hospital can help speed the process to being seen, assessed and beginning treatment. So, when are patients institutionalized for mental health? “When they are actively a threat to themselves or others, that’s when the referral is made to the hospital. Then our on-call clinicians or medical director would be called to assess the situation, screen them, facilitate next steps and work with a client to stabilize a crisis situation or psychiatric emergency. Our services don’t necessarily go out on site, but Elevate does go on location to provide emergency services, usually within 45 minutes of the call.”
Many crises occur at odd hours, so most mental health facilities in the Driftless offers after-hours service for emergencies with clinicians who are on-call. “The after-hours main number is where you can leave a message, which then goes to the corporate office, which is then routed to a therapist, who then calls the person back quickly.  Most will also work to find assistance to address a crisis 24/7 and will try to meet face-to-face. The hospital, whether through the emergency room, or an admission, can be a great resource for anyone suicidal, to ensure their safety as a last resort.” 
He continued, “We do try to keep people in their own homes as much as possible, and work with them there, because that’s where they need to be. But, if they need hospitalization, then that’s an option as well.”  
But what should a person do if a loved one has reached that boiling point? “Try to get in contact with help, through the local mental health providers, or they can also call Elevate, a mobile mental health crisis unit that serves a large area,” reported Woodcock. “Whatever you do, do not hesitate to reach out to get help. We can help connect them with people with the resources they need.”
Once in treatment, each patient is assessed for viable treatment options, including individual or group therapy, medication assisted therapy, trauma treatment, and they also work closely with each county’s Social Services boards and staff.  
Woodcock also noted, substance use and abuse can leave tell-tale symptoms people can see that can lead to a whole new set of treatment options, but problem gambling can be harder to spot or find out about and seek treatment. NEIBHC has a contract with the State of Iowa to provide services and support for those with problem gambling, called their Problem Gambling Champion, who can help.