Muscatine County Courthouse

Muscatine County Courthouse

MUSCATINE — During a discussion at the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors meeting about how Muscatine County Public Health will focus on mental health and drug abuse in the coming year, a group of veterans who attended the meeting for a different reason spoke of their mental health concerns.

During the regular supervisors meeting Monday, public health director Christy Roby Williams unveiled the results of the department’s community health needs assessment.

She said the assessment, done in collaboration with area hospitals, allows the department to categorize the needs and create a plan to address them. Of 13 priorities, the study selected mental health and drug abuse to focus on.

“We focused on two priorities this year so we can have a stronger impact on the issues in our county,” Williams said. “That does not negate the work we need to do in the other areas.”

When she began discussing the goal of improving access to mental health services, several area military veterans, who had attended the meeting to address the supervisors about a different issue, spoke about the need for improved mental health services.

Among issues raised by the commenters were the lack of a psychiatrist devoted to Muscatine County as well as housing for people in crisis. One added sometimes patients have to be transported to Johnson County and, more often, even farther.

Veteran Cyle Geertz commented many veterans having mental health issues don’t need a psychiatrist but need coaching and group therapy. Williams said there are services for veterans in Muscatine County, adding anyone can call an area crisis line for aid.

Geertz said in Washington County a group called English River Outfitters, founded by his late brother Chuck Geertz, offered mental health services to veterans. He said he would give Williams more information about the group.

One concern raised was that many services are available, but they tended to be separate and difficult to access as a whole.

Williams said her advice to people seeking to find mental health treatment is to contact the Eastern Iowa Region Mental Health and Disabilities website. The address is https://easterniowamhds.org. A crisis line offered by the region is 844-430-0375.

She also said if someone is in crisis and needs help, he or she should go immediately to a hospital emergency room. She said the emergency room can provide immediate phone psychiatry and assessment as well as getting a patient connected to care. She stressed anyone feeling either suicidal or homicidal should use this service.

“When you are in crisis you are not thinking about where to find help,” Williams said. “You might have a loved one who can help you. Your loved ones can call this crisis line to find out where to get help.”

Several of the veterans said they would connect with Williams and work to find more options for mental health services.

The health needs assessment is available on the Muscatine Public Health website.

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