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QC Healthcare Agencies On-Board With Possible Changes

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WVIK News
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Changes may be coming to the way that mental health is treated in the Quad Cities. A new report commissioned by the United Way has some recommendations.
WVIK's Mariah Woelfel reports.

Some key phrases in the report describe the problem: "Fragmentation," "lack of desire."

The solution? Collaborate, create a continuum of care, and develop community services.

"Who's responsible? I can't answer that question. I don't know," said Foster Norman of MTM Services, the consulting firm hired to assess how mental health conditions are treated in the Quad Cities. "And when we can't answer that question as to who's responsible, then that's going to create a system of care that's fragmented, that's not coordinated and that doesn't have the level of collaboration that you want to see."

Norman, and his partner David Swann, presented their findings to healthcare leaders last week.

They described a compartmentalized system where patients get admitted regularly, perhaps too often, and where healthcare providers are failing to give  comprehensive treatment, and no one's really held responsible.

"So for example, a person can go into one system when they have more than one type of problem," Swann said. "They'll go into one system and get treated for one problem, and then they get moved to another with out any collaboration." 

The first step to fixing the problem, they say, is to create a consortium of mental health providers who would figure out how to work together to treat patients.

Richard Whitaker, CEO of Vera French Community Mental Health center in Davenport, says he's on board with that, and says Vera French could take the lead. 

"We've got quite a few individuals who are maybe are not being served who could be served if we did a better job of working together as a continuum of care," Whitaker said. 

Gary Weinstein, CEO of Rock Island-based Transitions Mental Health Services, also agrees, though he disagrees with the consultants who say local agencies don't want to work together. 

"I've never met a provider who does not want to collaborate. It may be their funding doesn't allow for it to a greater extent."

But Weinstein admits a more formal effort is needed, and he's confident that it can happen within provider's limited means.

"A lot of what were talking about I think we can do, and to a great extent I think we're already doing it. I think we need to do it better."

But a consortium is just the first step. To shift away from a reliance on costly trips to the emergency room, where patients are often treated for only one of several problems, Swann says there needs to be more community-based services.

"Number one: mobile crisis teams -- going where a person is in crisis and managing the crisis to the extent they can, where the person is located," Swann said."

Whitaker says Vera French is in the early stage of offering some of these services, but most providers are limited by a lack of state funding, especially in Illinois.

But MTM Services is largely suggesting that providers work with what they've got and reallocate services.

"Then you wont have the need for a greater number of psychiatric inpatient beds because those services would be designed to avoid higher costs and inappropriate psychiatric inpatient [admittance], as well as individuals going to emergency or local hospitals."
Norman and Swann say they can't say definitively whether the Quad Cities needs to hire more healthcare workers, but they do know one thing for sure:

"More individuals could be served with the same number of professionals that currently exist."

The suicide rate is 16 per 100,000, significantly higher than the national avergae of 12 per 100,000. 12 percent of local residents say their mental health is fair or poor, and nearly 30 percent say they've suffered from depression.