Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs made his mark on Mount Vernon. Many in town made their mark on him, too. Wirfs and his mother, Sarah, took The Gazette on a tour of his hometown, revisiting scenes around what essentially is the one square mile where he grew up. This story is a little about what can hold you back. This is mostly about what moves you forward.

Government

Johnson County access center ready for bids

$6.9 million center for people in crisis should be open by October 2020

IOWA CITY — Groundbreaking for the Johnson County Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center could come as early as October.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved the plans and estimated cost of the access center,

The Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center, which will be built at 270 Southgate Ave. in south Iowa City, will house sobering and crisis stabilization units, and a low-barrier homeless shelter. The low-barrier shelter would not require people to be sober in order to be admitted.

The project is scheduled to go out to bid in the next few days.

“I think Sept. 19 is when we hope to award the contract,” said Matt Miller, the center’s project manager. “Construction would start shortly thereafter.”

It’s hoped the center can be opened by October 2020.

The center is part of a larger response to shift the approach toward managing individuals in a mental health crisis.

Beginning in May 2015, local law enforcement agencies sent officers and deputies to San Antonio, Texas, to be trained in crisis intervention, an approach that teaches participants how to recognize when someone is having a mental health issue or other crisis and how to de-escalate the situation.

While that training was a positive first step, local officials recognized law enforcement still only had two options on where to take someone experiencing a crisis — jail or the hospital.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

San Antonio is also home to the Restoration Center, which includes sobering, detoxification and mental health units. Haven for Hope, a homeless shelter that offers education and employment services, is across the street.

Officials in Johnson County have been working toward their own access center since 2017.

Miller said startup costs for the project — which include the earth work on the site, the building and solar panels — is about $6.9 million.

“Hopefully, the bids will come in below that, but that’s what we’ve estimated,” Miller said.

Numerous local entities have pledged contributions to the center’s capital costs in the coming years.

For fiscal year 2020, Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region pledged $2.05 million; the city of Iowa City pledged $2.5 million; Coralville and North Liberty each pledged $250,000; Tiffin pledged $10,000; and Hills pledged $2,000.

In fiscal 2021, Coralville and North Liberty are each expected to commit another $250,000 each to the project.

Miller said those contributions still need to be formalized.

Another step to be completed in the coming months is to finalize the agreement with AbbeHealth as the facility’s managing entity.

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.