Region to continue funding services during COVID-19 crisis

Region to continue funding services during COVID-19 crisis

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DAVENPORT — The Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Region board voted unanimously Wednesday to continue paying for services from the Robert Young Center even though those services have been modified to meet state and federal guidelines to ensure worker safety and to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

During a special meeting held over the phone, the board learned from region CEO Lori Elam that the services were still operating in all counties but measures have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some of the services have gone to televised consultations. Elam said the Robert Young Center had reported the changes and she felt it was a board decision on whether to continue funding the services.

“All of the providers are up and running, but to various degrees,” said Mary Peterson, director of behavioral health services for UnityPoint Health/Robert Young Center. “It’s important the board know all these agencies made modifications to the services based on recommendations from CDC as well as the state of Iowa and the governor’s direction.”

Peterson showed a chart breaking down the impact of COVID-19 into categories, including 24/7 crisis services, chair coordination services, peer services and crisis residential services. She said the center recommends the board continues to pay the services, even though they weren’t delivering the care in the manner in which the system was designed.

She assured the board the providers are delivering care to the best of their abilities. She also mentioned that, after reviewing the contracts, the region could file for breach of contract because the services were not being provided face-to-face.

Many of the board members commented that the center was doing its best to honor the contracts and provide the services it had been contracted to provide given the circumstances.

Board chair Ken Beck wanted to ensure the providers currently not working were remaining productive in other areas. Peterson showed that the providers were still providing services. She said there was a great change, and work is done differently in that the time used to either transfer a patient or for a provider to drive to different areas was now being replaced with calls.

“People have a better chance now of going into crisis because of loss of jobs and other things,” board member Jim Irwin said. He asked if everyone was trained to deliver services over the phone as well as in person. Peterson said they have been and have always reached out to people on the phone, but that was now being expanded.

Board member Dawn Smith asked to make sure that crisis service could be accessed through a smartphone. Peterson said it could.

Peterson said the initial feedback she had received about the changes had been positive in that people seeking services were able to access them from home and still get support.

Irwin commented that most of the services are still being provided, only in a different format.

“Every provider in the Eastern Iowa crisis system is trying their best to adapt and to learn new methods to take care of the community,” Peterson said.

In the cases of 24/7 crisis services, little change was reported except the suspension of face-to-face mobile crisis services, which have been replaced with teleconferencing.

The peer centers in Muscatine and Clinton counties have converted to virtual operation. The peer center in Scott County is remaining open, utilizing social distancing. The crisis residential is still open, and the residential in Clinton County is also still open.

The Robert Young Center and Bridgeview Center have suspended all face-to-face sessions and interaction inside the jails and switched to telephone care.

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