By Jordan Prochnow
Measures to support transportation and mental health will be coming to the Iowa City area.
On Jan. 22, members from various city and area councils and boards took part in a joint entities meeting to discuss new programs for Johnson County.
Two of the most prevalent topics included new transportation measures for Iowa City as well as a new access center for individuals needing mental-health resources.
The new access center, which has been budgeted and is currently seeking a property for construction, is waiting on financial support from various towns in Johnson County to complete the project.
In a previous statement, officials assumed that the county would contribute 40 percent of capital, Iowa City would contribute 40 percent, and Coralville and North Liberty would each contribute 10 percent.
It is currently unclear how much assistance the University of Iowa will provide, either concerning capital or health-care resources.
According to a report published by the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, the 22,000-square-foot facility will house detoxification, sobering, and crisis-stabilization units.
The term “access center” is used universally for this type of facility to promote patient access to immediate stabilization, treatment, and connections.
The center will strive to be an area for safe handling and care of mentally unstable individuals rather than sending them to a hospital or jail.
“It is a way to approach and deal with individuals having a mental-health incident to deal better and more humanely with them and to de-escalate the situation,” Supervisor Vice Chair Lisa Green-Douglass said. “We need to do better. We need to provide a place where individuals having incidents involving mental health can get services and connections with other resources.”
The center is not to be confused with the Crisis Center of Johnson County, which provides assistance to those in need of emotional, food, or financial support.
According to its website, the Crisis Center “provides immediate support through our crisis intervention, food bank, and emergency assistance and community intervention programs.”
“A lot of people have been working on this for a long time, and I would say that we are very, very close to bringing this to fruition,” Iowa City City Councilor Susan Mims said. “The only places right now where law enforcement can take these individuals are jails or emergency rooms, and this type of center would be helpful.”
The second item on the agenda focused on increasing transportation options in Iowa City.
City Manager Geoff Fruin said the city has not yet decided on a scope for the project, but the council will likely deliberate about that in February.
Fruin said officials are open to other agencies that want to explore the new transportation opportunities, and they hope to get a consultant on board for the start of the fiscal year, July 1.
“We will dig deep into our ridership numbers and other data to determine how best to serve the public going forward,” Fruin said.
The prospective increase will take place under new Transportation Services Director Darian Nagle-Gamm, who will begin her position on Feb. 1.