Legislation to address a shortage of psychiatric treatment beds across the state has cleared a three-member panel in the Iowa House. The bill would direct the Department of Human Services to devise a tracking system to locate an available bed when a patient is having a psychiatric emergency.
Representative David Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, says a county sheriff from his community recently made 40 calls trying to find room for a patient. “Forty calls and he ended up having to take two of his deputies off staff and place the client in a police car and travel 312 miles across the state to Sioux City,” Heaton said. According to Heaton, officers sometimes make the trip only to find that the available bed was already filled.
“And think about the patient in the back of the car, handcuffed with his hands behind the back, spending 6 or 7 hours in the car,” Heaton said. “It’s horrible. It’s inhumane.” Heaton says the closing of the mental health facilities in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda will make the situation worse. He says it will take time for the state’s new regional mental health systems to come up with more community placements for the mentally ill.
The DHS is already working on a monitoring system with the help of a federal grant.