New Mental Health Program In Scott County Scratches Surface Of Population's Needs

Aug 18, 2017

There's a new mental health program in Scott County thanks to the philanthropic arm of Genesis Health System.

On Friday, Genesis Philanthropy announced a $496,000 gift to Vera French Community Mental Health Center, which will fund the first two years of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program.

The program will provide free, comprehensive care to patients with severe mental health conditions and who have suffered due to failed treatments, according Vera French Clinical Director, Chris McCormick-Pries.

"No excuse is accepted for not engaging in treatment -- we go to you . . .We'll meet people in a Subway, at McDonald's, at a park, at church, at their home." McCormick-Pries said. "We are there to engage, to talk with you about what you feel you need, to offer the services that are going to help stabilize an individual's life." 

The ACT team will be comprised of eight to 10 mental health professionals with the goal of taking on six new patients a month for two years. Those patients can expect to be in daily contact with their ACT team, which will provide resources from housing support to prescription medicine. 

Richard Whitaker, Executive Director of Vera French Community Mental Health Center, says the new ACT program will serve just half of those in need of intensive mental health care.
Credit Mariah Woelfel/WVIK

"The ACT team is responsive to the needs of those being served 24/7," said Richard Whitaker, Executive Director of Vera French. "It's not an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. program -- this is a 24-hour, 365-day program."

Patients will be selected based on input from local police departments, Scott County Jail, mental health centers, and community service organizations. 

 There are five other ACT programs throughout the state of Iowa -- in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, and Council Bluffs.

According to the state's Department of Human Services, those programs have resulted in an 80 percent reduction of the days patients spend in a hospital, or in jail. Patients are also 2.5 times more likely to get a job while participating in the program. 

In part, the program is a response to suggestions made in a report in April that painted mental health treatment in the Quad Cities as disjunctive and inadequate, where patients are admitted to hospitals too often with unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

That report cited ACT as a service that would help fill the gaps in treatment here. 

But Executive Director Richard Whitaker says this is just scratching the surface on need for services in Scott County, and the Iowa DHS estimates that Davenport needs at least two ACT programs to adequately serve its population. 

In the Quad Cities, Whitaker he says about 400 people are in need of a comprehensive and intensive care program like ACT.

"It's fairly widely-researched that about 0.1% of the population would need ACT. Well that would be about 400 people in the Quad Cities."

Instead, Assertive Community Treatment at Vera French will attempt to serve 80-100 patients in Scott County during its first year, starting with six patients the first month and adding six more every 30 days.