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County services help prevent returning to jail

The Oskaloosa Herald - 1/25/2019

Jan. 24--MAHASKA COUNTY -- There are services available in Mahaska County for those struggling with mental health issues.

Mahaska County Coordinator of Disability Services Heather Gross presented mental health services information to Eggs and Issues attendees on Saturday, Jan. 12. Gross had the opportunity to share even more information at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Jan. 22.

One of the services Gross shared was the jail alternatives program that has been in place for around two years.

Gross visits the jail and encourages inmates to come see her when they are released.

"In fact, Thursday, I had a gentleman who was released from jail that morning and 15 minutes later, he was in my office," she said. "That's exactly what we want. I have him involved in services already, I've made referrals on his behalf, and I have a meeting scheduled for him on Thursday to meet with a provider. I'm super excited about that, because hopefully, he won't go back to jail."

Since the beginning of the year, Gross said, she has had multiple people come see her.

"They'll walk in and they'll be like 'you remember me? I saw you at the jail, you told me to come over. I don't know why I'm hear but I just remember you told me about six times to come see you when I"m released so here I am,'" she said. "And then we process through."

Gross said she's had some people who haven't really needed anything from her because they already had things in place or took care of things on their own.

"But it's handy to make sure of that so that I know where they are as far as accessing resources," she said. "Again, with the hope that they don't come back to jail and they're connected with the community services."

Some data is collected, Gross said.

"And when I say data, I mean numbers," she said. "So, for instance, if somebody comes to my office and I give them the warm line card, I will let them know that data is collected. But I don't know who calls. I don't know what is said."

Gross said all she knows is how many people from Mahaska County used the hotline that month.

"That is it. 160 people went to the drop-in center. I don't know who you are, so that's confidential. But we like to track that data so that we know that the services that we're developing or have are being utilized and worth it," she said. "And I would say based on the data I've seen so far, everything we're doing is backed by that data."

Housing First

Another program Gross went into more detail about was the Housing First program. Gross said people tend to misunderstand the purpose of the program.

"People hear "housing first" and they'll call me and they'll say 'oh I hear you find me an apartment. It doesn't work quite like that," she said. "It actually has a pre-screen process and a lot of other things that have to happen first. And I don't find apartments. I do referrals, do the provider situation."

If someone is eligible for Housing First, that means they're not eligible for Section 8. Housing First is the last resort, she said, and all other resources have been exhausted first.

"So if you're eligible for Section 8, we can still do other services, but that's just going to handle your housing part of it," she said. "Housing First is usually for individuals who can't meet Section 8. More than likely there are multi-occurring things going on for them. They have to have a mental health diagnosis first. But more than likely, they have substance, homelessness, some other things going on. "

Crisis Services hotline: 1-844-430-8520

Iowa Warm Line: 1-844-775-9276 (operated 5 -- 10 p.m.)

National Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Southern Iowa Mental Health Center Crisis Line: 641-682-8772

Sexual assault/violent crime hotline:1-800-270-1620

Emergency housing hotline: 1-844-673-5499

Domestic violence hotline: 1-800-464-8340

Mahaska County CDS Heather Gross: 641-673-0410

Crisis Intervention Services office: 641-673-0336


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