Covenant Medical Center expanding emergency department; focusing - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Covenant Medical Center expanding emergency department; focusing on mental health crisis

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Our state's mental health system concerns many people here in Iowa. 

Several mental health institutions have been forced to close their doors in recent years, and the number of patients isn't getting any lower. 

Many patients are waiting hours, even days, to get the help they need.

Chris Latta, the director of behavioral health and emergency services, says, "The amount of time that a behavioral health patient spends in the emergency department is so much longer than it used to be. It's because we don't have beds at the local level and at the state level."

A patient could wait in a small, secluded emergency room for a long time before a space is available in the proper treatment facility he or she needs.

Latta says, "That's tough for anyone to handle. There's frustration because we may not have capacity here, or we can't find an appropriate bed for this patient. Whether it be here or somewhere else in the state, people wait for a long time."

Right now, Covenant Medical Center is working on a project to help make the wait more comfortable. They're renovating and expanding their Emergency Department.

The hospital is adding four holding rooms and a common space to the Emergency Department. The holding rooms in the new area will be a little larger than the common emergency rooms. The common space will also be a key part of this expansion. It will allow patients to get up, move around, and socialize. 

This will be a place for stable adult behavioral health patients to stay. 

"Rather than waiting in a room for hours or even days, we can move you to a space that's much more accommodating to you. We don't want you to feel like you're sick. We want you to feel like you're here getting help," Latta says. 

The goal is for construction to be done by the end of next month, and for this to be ready for patients a few weeks after that. The project is set to cost around $646,000. 

The Otto Schoitz Foundation awarded $250,000 for the behavioral health expansion in Fall 2017. Funding is also provided by donations from community members and Wheaton Iowa associates to The Covenant Foundation.

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