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Linn County has hired Erin Foster as director for the new Mental Health Access Center that is expected to open next year in Linn County. Foster began her new role December 2, 2019.
As Access Center Director, Foster will provide leadership in the implementation and coordination of co-located services provided to individuals with urgent or crisis behavioral health needs at the Access Center. She will work collaboratively with key service providers to set up protocols, coordinate services, and oversee day-to-day operations and budgeting.
Foster comes to Linn County from the Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC), where she was the Director of Prevention Services since 2013 and with ASAC since 2007.
“Erin’s experience and skills in community engagement, advocacy, and implementation make her an ideal candidate for this role. We are excited to welcome Erin to the Linn County staff where her experience will be instrumental as we plan and implement Linn County’s first Mental Health Access Center,” said David Thielen, executive director of Linn County Community Services, which will oversee management of the Access Center.
Foster’s experience includes strategic planning, leading policy work and advocacy, supervising staff, and working with local funders and culturally diverse populations.
Foster has assisted many community organizations in leading efforts regarding the prevention of substance use and other behavioral health issues locally. Her most recent collaborative work was when she was asked to Chair the Linn County Opioid Steering Committee by the Linn County Board of Health. This committee brought together over 30 community partners to create a countywide strategic plan for addressing the current opioid issues, as well as creating an ongoing prevention and intervention plan to address potential current issues regarding opioid use disorder in the community.
About the Mental Health Access Center
The Linn County Board of Supervisors, local law enforcement, hospitals, and local mental health partners are working together to create Linn County’s first Mental Health Access Center for adults experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis in our community. The Mental Health Access Center will be located in the former Linn County Public Health building at 501 13th St. NW, Cedar Rapids, next to the Abbe Center for Community Health. Significant analysis went into the selection of this location. The Access Center will provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Access Center is expected to open in 2020 following renovation of the building.
Hospitals, law enforcement, and service providers have long identified the need for a setting more appropriate than jail or a hospital emergency room for people to receive crisis mental health and substance abuse services. The Access Center will provide short-term assistance for individuals in crisis and then connect them to on-going recovery services.
Linn County has committed $3.5 million for start-up funding.
The following services will be provided at the Access Center by local service providers under the management of Linn County Community Services:
Linn County Board of Supervisors member Ben Rogers has been leading the effort to create the county’s first Mental Health Access Center. “The Access Center will be a physical space where individuals can safely go when experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis instead of the hospital emergency rooms and jail – oftentimes the two most costly and inappropriate settings for someone in crisis,” Rogers said. “The Access Center will provide high quality, safe, evidence-based services, which includes crisis observation, crisis stabilization, sobering unit, and the only medically supervised detox center in Linn County.”