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New mental health services available in Mahaska County

The Oskaloosa Herald - 1/18/2019

Jan. 16--MAHASKA COUNTY -- Mental health services are growing and expanding in Mahaska County.

During Saturday's Eggs and Issues session, Mahaska County Supervisor Mark Groenendyk said there are a lot of things changing with mental health services in the county.

Groenendyk introduced Heather Gross, coordinator for Mahaska County Disability Services. Gross shared several new services for the county, including one that just started Jan. 14, 2019.

CHOICES drop-in center

The CHOICES (Center for Hope, Opportunity Inspiration and Change in an Environment of Support) drop-in center was started in November of 2018 and is located at 117 First Ave. W.

The CHOICES drop-in center, Gross said, is a safe place where people who have a mental health diagnosis can go.

"One of the things that people with mental health diagnoses talk about is that they're lonely and they tend to congregate in places that we don't necessarily want that to happen, so this gives them a safe place," she said. "It also allows them to have a free lunch and to participate in classes or activities such as discussing their diagnosis, there's also some craft classes and different things going on.

Gross said she has wanted something like that in Mahaska County for a long time and it has been a success.

"Our first month of participation, we had about 128 people there. That was from November," she said. "For the month of December, we had 160 people there. So that tells you it's a needed service and people are using it."

Crisis Stabilization Residential Service

A service that was started in May, Gross said, was the Crisis Stabilization Residential Service, facilitated by Southern Iowa Mental Health Center in Ottumwa.

"If somebody is having a mental health crisis, traditionally, they've gone out to ER or they've gotten into trouble and gone to jail," she said. "Now there is a third option where they can go to this crisis stabilization, figure out what's going on, and the next steps can be taken so that they're not going to jail and they're not going to ER."

The phone number is 641-682-8772 and is answered 24 hours a day.

Crisis mobilization

The brand new service, a crisis mobilization service, Gross said, piggybacks with the crisis stabilization services.

"An example of that [service] is, say, you're at home and your neighbors -- they're loud. There's a fight going on next door," she said. "Traditionally, you would call the police. [We're] not saying not to do that, but there's also a 1-800 number that can be called."

A dispatcher will decide if the police need to be sent or if two mental health professionals can go out, Gross said, and determine what's going on.

"Maybe somebody in that household needs to go to crisis stabilization to calm them out, figure out what's going on," she said. "We want our police to police work. We want our ERs to do ER work and these services help make that happen."

The phone number for the mobile crisis team is 1-844-430-8520.

According to a hand-out, mental health professionals are available to respond 24 hours a day for patients of all ages, including children. In addition to Mahaska County, the team responds to Wapello, Davis and Appanoose counties.

Jail alternative services

Gross also discussed jail alternative services, which have been in use for nearly two years. Gross meets with patients, along with a medical provider from Mahaska Health Partnership, to help those in jail with mental health problems, especially substance abuse.

"We've learned that substance goes [hand in hand] with mental health and so we are trying to assist people with making that outreach to getting mental health services," she said. "Sometimes is starting therapy, getting the rest of that when released from jail. The idea is that they don't go back there, that we're helping them figure out other ways to live their life."

For more information, Gross can be contacted via phone at 641-673-0410 and via email at A Facebook page, Mahaska County Community Services/South Central Behavioral Health Region has also been established.


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