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Mercy Iowa City plans to close its psychiatric inpatient unit at the end of the year due to financial losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outpatient services will continue to be offered through its Behavioral Health Clinic, which is located at 1067 Ryan Court in Iowa City.
“Due to the financial impact of COVID-19, we are in the process of transitioning our unlocked Inpatient Behavioral Health unit in favor of expanding our outpatient service where there is greater community need,” Communication Strategist Aaron Scheinblum wrote in an email to the Press-Citizen.
He said the unit will accept its last patient on Nov. 1.
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Hospital officials did not respond to questions regarding when the unit opened, if other services have also been impacted by COVID-19 and how many patients the unit treated on an annual basis.
A tracking system for psychiatric inpatient beds at Iowa hospitals shows the Mercy Iowa City unit staffed between 10 to 12 beds over the past few years. Known as CareMatch, the Iowa Department of Human Services’ tracking system helps agencies and individuals search for available beds in Iowa.
It lists one other hospital in Johnson County as having psychiatric inpatient beds: the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
More: Iowa City officials, community members talk police department’s approach to policing those experiencing mental-health crises
Laura Shoemaker, the public relations manager at the University of Iowa Health Care, said the hospital has not reduced its number of psychiatric inpatient beds during the pandemic. The unit has a total of 88 beds.
Mercy Hospital is pictured, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, at 500 E Market Street in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo: Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen)
“In fact, we have expanded our services because we have been able to provide telehealth psychiatric care in far greater numbers than we were able to provide pre-COVID,” she wrote in an email.
Over the last week of September, the psychiatric department had “roughly 350 telepsych visits,” Shoemaker said. She estimated the average number of telehealth psychiatric visits prior to the pandemic was around 10 to 15.
New mental health facility scheduled to open in Johnson County in 2021
Psychiatric inpatient units provide a wide range of mental health services, including crisis stabilization and treatment for depression, anxiety and other behavioral conditions.
And while Johnson County residents may be losing the psychiatric unit at Mercy Iowa City, a new mental health facility is scheduled to open in early 2021.
The GuideLink Center, a collaboration between Johnson County officials and other local service providers, will offer short-term mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
Located at 300 Southgate Ave., the center is not a hospital and does not offer medical or surgical services.
The center is seen as an alternative for people experiencing crises who may have otherwise been sent to a jail or an emergency room. Depending on the need, individuals will be able to stay at the center for up to five days.
Hillary Ojeda covers breaking news and public safety for the Press-Citizen. Reach her at 319-339-7345, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @hillarymojeda.
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