Mental health facility fights to stay open

Oak Place will be shutting its doors on October 31st due to a lack of funding./KTVO. 

With seven full-time employees and a budget of $32,000 a month, the Oak Place Crisis Stabilization Residential Home in Centerville, Iowa treats over 80 patients a year from Mahaska, Appanoose, Wapello and Davis Counties, and up to five of them stay in the home every day. All of them get round-the-clock care, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Their purpose is to help mental health patients who no longer need in-patient psychiatric care at a hospital, but do still require support and supervision to be re-integrated back into the community.

“It’s a social, emotional program that makes them have hope for their future and tells them that there’s more to them than just their mental health diagnosis,” said Executive Director of Centerville Community Betterment Jackie Sharp.

Oskaloosa resident Sherrie Tennis is a patient currently living at Oak Place. She’s been there for over a week now. Tennis suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which she says is caused by childhood abuse. She found out about the facility after she admitted herself to the hospital, and they got her in touch with Oak Place. She says the relaxing environment of Oak Place has had a huge impact on her that other in-patient psychiatric facilities haven’t had.

“I would get to the point where I’m at right now and then it would be time to go home. I’m not quite ready to go home yet, I’m looking at probably another week here to help reintegrate me into my home. So, I feel like I’m getting the extra time and care that I need before I actually go home. So, I’m actually going to be ready to go,” Tennis said.

On October 31st, Oak Place will be shutting down its services for good. Right now, the facility is being funded by the South Central Behavioral Health Region, but in August, the board decided to stop funding the program and instead seek a facility that could operate for less money and be more accessible to the other counties it serves.

“What we’re looking at now is we’re paying $32,000 a month and we had a request from the same company to go to $40,000 a month. So, that’s about half-a-million a year and we’re only utilizing this service about half the time. And, that seemed to be not cost-effective for us,” said Wapello County Supervisor Jerry Parker

The board has started accepting proposals for a facility that could have three beds in Appanoose county, two in Mahaska and two in Wapello. They say whatever company they decide to go with must be open by January first.

So what’s going to happen to the patients Oak Place currently sees?

“My biggest fear for patients is that a lot of them will fall through the cracks and just become lost,” said Oak Place Program Manager Gregg Robinson.

Patient Sherrie Tennis says there’s no other place in southeast Iowa that provides this type of care and support. She says she worries about her future once Oak Place shuts down.

“I don’t know where I’ll go because I do, periodically, I do require this type of care and I have no idea where they’ll send me. It’s just the unknown......... It terrifies me,” Tennis said.

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