Letter: Cutting residential beds will affect care

The Iowa Psychiatric Society has been a strong advocate for community psychiatry in providing safe aftercare, especially for our patients requiring involuntary mental health commitment. By definition these patients are a danger to themselves or others. Frequently residential care facilities or state hospitals are the only alternative.

Dr. Alan Whitters’ Jan. 23 guest column “Fix mental health system” as well as Emily Blomme’s Feb. 1 guest column “Mental health: Iowa can, and must, do better” reiterated the need for a variety of levels of care and that includes residential care facilities as step down units from expensive inpatient stays similar to the rehabilitation from strokes or heart attacks. We agree that cutting more residential beds at this time would further reduce necessary treatment alternatives for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Already our psychiatric units are overloaded and require boarding in the emergency rooms or transporting to other psychiatric units sometimes hundreds of miles away. Our jails and prisons are populated with people with severe psychiatric disorders. If the East Central Region cuts more residential beds we feel that they are sending the message that it is wrong to institutionalize but OK to jail. The Iowa Psychiatric Society agrees with both articles that “It is our responsibility to make sure that we have adequate and healthy mix of services for people with mental health challenges, including acute care and residential options.”

Jerry Greenfield

President, Iowa Psychiatric Society

Des Moines

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