Linn County hires director for new Mental Health Access Center

The center for mental health, substance abuse services is expected to open in May 2020

Erin Foster
Erin Foster

CEDAR RAPIDS — The director for the Linn County Mental Health Access Center, expected to open in May 2020, began her new job earlier this month, leading the department in assisting adults experiencing mental health or substance abuse crises.

Erin Foster, who started Dec. 2, will provide leadership in the implementation and coordination of services for people with urgent or crisis behavioral health needs, according to a news release from the county.

Linn County Supervisor Ben Rogers, who has been leading the effort to create the Mental Health Access Center, said a project manager had been working to take the access center from “concept to reality.” The responsibilities of the project manager are being transferred to Foster, who will coordinate with mental health providers, medical doctors, law enforcement and emergency medical services.

“(Foster) will help provide policy and procedures and be the point of contact for law enforcement, dispatch and medical doctors ... to make sure they can sign off on using the access center as an alternative level of service,” Rogers said.

Linn County has committed $3.5 million in startup funding for the center. It will be at the former Linn County Public Health facility, 501 13th St. NW.

Renovations will begin next month.

The access center will be a place where people in crisis can go instead of a hospital emergency room or jail, which are “oftentimes the two most costly and inappropriate settings for someone in crisis,” Rogers said in a news release.

“The Access Center will provide high-quality, safe, evidence-based services, which include crisis observation, crisis stabilization, sobering unit and the only medically supervised detox center in Linn County,” Rogers said.


Foster led the Linn County Opioid Steering Committee, which worked to create a strategic plan to address opioid issues and an ongoing prevention and intervention plan.

She previously worked at the Area Substance Abuse Council, where she had been director of prevention services since 2013.

“Erin’s experience and skills in community engagement, advocacy and implementation make her an ideal candidate for this role,” said David Thielen, executive director of Linn County Community Services, which will oversee management of the access center.

“We are excited to welcome Erin to the Linn County staff, where her experience will be instrumental as we plan and implement Linn County’s first Mental Health Access Center.

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