Government

Gov. Kim Reynolds praises Johnson County's GuideLink Center

Facility offers shelter and care for mental health and crises

Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday tours the GuideLink Center in Iowa City. The access center, which opens next week, will pr
Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday tours the GuideLink Center in Iowa City. The access center, which opens next week, will provide crisis evaluation, observation and stabilization to those experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Just days away from its soft opening, the GuideLink Center drew praise Thursday from Gov. Kim Reynolds for the collaboration that made it and its integration of mental health and crisis intervention services possible.

“This is amazing,” Reynolds said after her tour. “It’s incredible ... It’s really done well.”

Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Iowa Department of Human Services Director Kelly Garcia toured the facility at 300 Southgate Ave.

Over a decade in the making, the more-than-$6 million facility is home to sobering and crisis stabilization units and a low-barrier winter shelter. On Monday, it will begin accepting patients from law enforcement and CommUnity’s mobile crisis unit.

The center is supported by property taxes levied for mental health services, Medicaid funds and other sources.

Thursday’s tour was described by some as a celebration of the collaboration of various entities that made the GuideLink Center a reality. That collaboration was reflected the numerous elected officials, medical personnel and representatives from service agencies in attendance.

While the access center is now operational, there still are things that can make the facility run even better. Dr. Monika Jindal, medical director for the GuideLink Center, outlined for the governor what she views as three major areas where the state could assist: financial viability, maintaining a high-quality workforce and improved access to care through an integration of services.

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At the heart of those issues is the fact that the GuideLink Center represents a new health care model, Jindal said.

“We’re not really inpatient,” she said. “We’re not really outpatient. We’re this new entity that’s different and really hasn’t been accounted for yet.”

Jindal noted that the code for Iowa Medicaid hasn’t been updated since 2018, which impacts billing at the facility. State policies don’t allow for the Johnson County Ambulance Service to drop patients off anywhere but an emergency room. Credentialing guidelines allow only registered nurses to do some of the work that could be handled by licensed practical nurses. The various entities that will inhabit the center also use different electronic health records that Jindal would like to see unified.

“I appreciated that she really seemed to understand some of what we’re trying to do and tried to be willing to partner with us to break down some of those barriers and work through some of that bureaucracy,” Jindal told The Gazette.

The GuideLink Center is not the only facility of its kind eying an opening. The Linn County Mental Health Access Center plans to open in the coming weeks, after delays due to COVID-19 and the August derecho.

Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers said the center, at 501 13th St. NW., just got its temporary occupancy permit, which opens the door for staff to get in the facility and begin practicing policies and procedures.

“They’re just working on those final touches,” said Rogers. “But not being open yet has allowed construction to finish the punch list.”

Rogers added that being able to get final construction items wrapped up prevents extra noise from happening when people are at the center experiencing a mental health crisis.

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Matt Miller, project manager for the GuideLink Center, said he enjoyed showing off the facility. Now he’s ready for opening day.

“Everybody is excited,” he said. “Everybody is ready.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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