Mental health treatment center for violence prone

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 18 2014 | 11:18 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:18 am in

I read with great interest The Gazette article on Jan. 12: “Assaults raise staff safety concerns.”

The Mercy Medical Center Behavioral Health Unit faces the same dilemma dealing with the minority of patients who have a psychiatric disorder and also exhibit violence. As a psychiatrist at three regional licensed residential treatment facilities, I can attest to the growing need for treatment and placement for this difficult population.

The closure of Abbe Center for Community Care has exacerbated the problem. There are insufficient placement alternatives available for these difficult to serve individuals. As a result, patients are placed on waiting lists sometimes for weeks before they can be placed at mental health institutes or residential treatment facilities. Community-based residential housing is an option for some; however, many of these individuals cannot be treated adequately outside a structured environment. Hopefully, the mental health redesign for our nine-county region will facilitate the consolidation resources to better serve this population in treatment facilities designed to address their illnesses and behaviors.

Iowa needs a dedicated facility for these difficult-to-place individuals who have a mental illness and are prone to extreme violence. As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Iowa is tied for first with the most prisoners who have mental illness — more than 50 percent. Maybe it is time to treat these individuals rather than warehouse them in expensive incarceration.

Alan Whitters

Medical director,

Mercy Medical Center Behavioral Service


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