By Allison Meyer
Johnson County hopes to expand and improve its mental-health services by taking another step toward opening its first Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center.
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted on July 12 to ratify a $1.34 million purchase agreement for 5.34 acres of land in southern Iowa City to build the center.
The agreement was passed 3-1, with Supervisor Mike Carberry absent and Supervisor Janelle Rettig voting against the move.
Rettig said she voted against the motion because she does not think the center should be built in a floodplain, but she does agree with the premise of the center.
The center’s goal is to provide effective and timely help in instances such as mental-health and substance-abuse crises. These often leave first responders with the difficult decision of taking an individual to either the emergency room or jail. A more specialized facility would, officials hope, be better equipped to adequately handle individuals who may need a different type of assistance.
The proposed center would try to reduce overcrowding and cut costs that the city and county spend on such services as hospital visits and jail stays.
The land, located at 270 Southgate Ave., is close to such organizations as Shelter House and Prelude Behavioral Services, which provide assistance to those in need in Johnson County.
Linn County supervisors also seek to open a center similar to the one officials plan for Johnson County.
Officials have not yet announced exact plans for the facility or the services it will provide; similar centers in other cities offer such services as substance-abuse help and crisis stabilization.