Logo courtesy of Eyerly Ball
By Lauris Olson
(March 14, 2012 – 1 p.m.) Mental health patients who receive help from the county or state in covering their treatment needs will have a new provider this summer.
Eyerly Ball, the Des Moines-based community mental health center serving Polk and Warren counties, will take over most government-paid patient care from the financially struggling Ames-based Richmond Center on July 1.
Eyerly Ball was the only qualified bidder for the government-paid, multi-services contract.
The Story County Board of Supervisors approved the contract yesterday.
Story County Community Services director Deb Schildroth told the supervisors that Eyerly Ball “stood out for their philosophy of using evidence-based services” as well as offering programming Story County does not currently have like mental health outreach to the elderly.
“Also, they have recently been accredited to provide substance abuse services, although that is not part of that process.”
The Richmond Center’s top administrator, John Hostetler, said last month that they would continue to offer mental health services for those not receiving financial help under the county contract.
Community and Family Resources, the substance abuse and addictions treatment center in Ames that has been operating the Richmond Center for the last three years, will also stay open, said Hostetler. He expects to continue offering co-occurring treatment for those with both addictions and mental health diagnoses.
Eyerly Ball will use Youth & Shelter Services in Ames as a sub-contractor to provide juvenile-centered services and will work with Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames to establish community-based crisis intervention services.
Both Eyerly Ball and YSS are CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabiliation Facilities) accredited, said Schildroth. The two plus Mary Greeley Medical Center all have electronic medical records systems in place.
“And then there is the financial stability of Eyerly Ball,” she said. “They went through some financial stability five or six years ago and with the help of consultants and cost cutting, they are now fine. Mary Greeley and YSS are both financially stable local agencies.”
Schildroth said she was asking for the contract approval now to allow as much time as possible for transitioning patients and marketing the change.
Christopher Sorensen, chief financial officer for Eyerly Ball, told the supervisors that they have begun searching for a location in Ames and have begun recruiting staff, including “reaching out to Richmond Center employees who may not have employment there” after the contract transition is completed.
The supervisors will briefly discuss the mental health services contract again on March 20 when they correct the wording in their motion. Due to confusion about Mary Greeley Medical Center’s relationship with Eyerly Ball, the hospital was identified as a “sub-contractor” in the motion.
Mary Greeley provides 24-hour crisis assessment through its emergency room. The hospital provided a letter of support in the Eyerly Ball application, but is not a sub-contractor at this time.
“It is our desire and that of Eyerly Ball, to enhance crisis admissions to the Transitional Living Program and in collaboration with the broader community, develop strategies related to non-emergency room, lower cost crisis options in association with a community mental health center model,” reads the letter from MGMC vice-president and chief of nursing services Neal Loes.
“Both organizations are committed to work collaboratively to achieve this goal in the future.”
Eyerly Ball’s willingness to provide locally based, community crisis service was just one of the reason’s Deb Neihoff, the director of the National Association of Mentally Ill of Central Iowa, was impressed with the community mental health center.
Neihoff was a member of the committee assembled by Story County to develop the criteria for mental health providers interested in bidding on the contract and to screen the applicants.
“A key point was ‘Will they be available at times when the mental health center is not open? “ she said. “That means nights and weekends. Even if it is just a phone call center, it needs to be local. The Richmond Center ‘s afterhour crisis contact is contracted out of Oregon. We need people on the other end of the phone who know that community.
“Also, I’m not sure it was widely known that the Richmond Center even had after-hour telephone crisis intervention available. We need the services widely publicized.”
Eyerly Ball provides a wide range of services, said Neihoff, and their future clients need to realize that not all of the services available in Polk County will be offered in Story County.
“They won’t offer their mobile crisis unit here,” she said. “They won’t probably offer their jail diversion program here.
“But they will be offering assessment and medication and therapy. They have also said they really want to collaborate and use the resources and programs we have here like peer-support specialists.”
Neihoff said Eylerly Ball also pledged support for the Wellness Center, a drop-in activities, group and social center NAMI opened last August. The center is at 416 Douglas, Suite 100, in Ames.
“The key to success will be staying in touch and being able to sit at the table with them to discuss the community’s needs.”
So far, Neihoff has heard little concern about the shift from the mental health services consumers in her programs.
“They were worried when the news came out that the Richmond Center would close,” she said. “But Deb Shildroth kept assuring us and we kept assuring them that services would still be available and now we know who will be providing them.”