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The Spirit Lake City Council has voted against changing the city’s zoning ordinance so a mental health access center could open in a commercial area near Spirit Lake’s downtown.

Shane Walter, CEO of Sioux Rivers Regional Mental Health and Disabilities Services, says the center would reduce the involvement of law enforcement and reduce the use of the emergency room at Spirit Lake’s hospital when someone needs mental health services.

“I think it would have an incredibly beneficial affect on the community in a lot of ways,” he says. “…It’s a sorely needed service not only in this community, but communities in the area. Not certain what we’ll do from here, but we’ll probably look to another community that would embrace this sort of a project.”

Spirit Lake City Councilman Jerry Harbst says the decision to deny the zoning change for a site downtown doesn’t mean the council is against bringing mental health services to the city.

“We have such limited downtown space in that four-block area…we feel there’s got to be and there is all kinds of areas that they can move into that won’t take any type of rezoning,” Harbst says.

Sioux Rivers is one of the 14 regional networks in Iowa created under state law to provide better access to mental health and disabilities services. The Sioux Rivers region covers Plymouth, Sioux, Lyon, O’Brien, Dickinson and Emmet Counties.

(By Corey Harguth, KICD, Spencer)