Drop-in mental health center sought in Marshalltown

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly one quarter of adults in the United States are dealing with a mental illness. The average age of onset for a mental illness is 14.

As the number of mental health cases rises, so does the need for more doctors and therapists to treat the illnesses and more psychiatric hospitals to house the patients. But two Marshalltown women want to bring a more proactive program to the city.

Deb Williams and Susan Rix have both dealt with mental illnesses throughout their lives, and now their plan is to bring a consumer-run mental health drop-in center to the community.

“It’s a place for (people) to come instead of sitting in their apartments and not doing anything,” Williams said. “It will be a place for them to work on their recovery, and they will do different things.”

Since the 1980s, consumer-run drop-in centers have been popping up all around the U.S., many of which are located in urban areas, according to the American Psychological Association.

Williams said the centers are “consumer-run” because the people that go to the center are the decision makers. She said they will decide everything from the meals to the activities.

Rix, 48, who has dealt with bipolar disorder since she was in her 20s, said she wants one of the centers in Marshalltown because many people who suffer from mental illness feel isolated, and they want to be a part of something.

“We’re wanting to educate and have support groups and guest speakers so they can learn and grow from their illness and develop things to give back to their community,” Rix said.

The idea has gained support from Center Associates in Marshalltown ,and the two have been working closely with Kim Hagen, a licensed independent social worker at Center Associates, on getting more information to the public.

“Conceptually, drop-in centers can be very beneficial,” Hagen said. “They can offer a safe and social environment where people with mental health problems can communicate with people who have the same problem.”

Williams said hospitalization rates decrease when people are involved in drop-in center programs. Hagen said it also offers an alternative option to people voluntarily committing themselves.

“It would give people with mental health issues an alternative to treatment and enhance what they’re getting in therapy,” Hagen said. “It’s a place where people can go to obtain additional support.”

Williams and Rix have developed a survey that is being handed out to clients at Center Associates and North Star Community Services to see if there is interest in their proposed drop-in center. Williams said some people have already shown interest.

The women are still in the research phase and the biggest hurdle will be funding.

Williams said all drop-in centers are funded by grants and fundraising efforts, but she doesn’t know how much will be needed to start the center.

“We’re starting with absolutely nothing. No tables, no chairs, nothing,” Williams said. “The main thing is to get people out of their houses and apartments and get them around other people.”

For now, Williams and Rix will continue to introduce their idea to the community.

“I’m at a really good place right now,” Rix said. “I am here because I’ve had a really good support system, and we believe there will be a desire for others to do the same.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from or show interest in a consumer-run mental health drop-in center, call Deb Williams at 641-753-7414 or Susan Rix at 641-844-3695.