Center Associates moves forward in Tama County

One year ago, Center Associates took over operations of the former Mental Health Center of Tama County.

Looking back, Mike Bergman, Center Associates CEO, is pleased with accomplishments during the transition, but he and staff have an eye on the future too.

Center Associates officially took control of the Mental Health Center of Tama County operations and clinic facility at 1309 S. Broadway in Toledo, Aug. 1, 2013.

The Mental Health Center had ceased operations at the close of business July 31, after its board of directors voted unanimously July 30, to turn over operations to Center Associates.

Bergman who, with others, had served as a consultant to the Mental Health Center when it was experiencing difficulties, and Center Associates reputation for effectively providing mental health services over a period of many years contributed to the board’s decision.

The vote was 7-0, with one member absent due to a vacation.

Ongoing financial struggles, the turnover of five clinic operations directors in approximately 10 years, and the departure of a psychiatrist were cited by the board of directors as reasons for the change.

Center Associates provided services on an emergency basis the first week of business, and began seeing clients immediately thereafter.

And it was immediately that Bergman, staff, and the board of directors began working in concert with Tama County stake-holders implementing changes to best serve patients.

Bergman reflected on those changes while in Toledo, Wednesday, where he sees patients weekly.

“We have made a significant number of exterior and interior physical plant improvements, including paving a driveway which was in disrepair, a lot of landscaping, and remodeled the office entry way and waiting room to make it more efficient and to comply with HIPA requirements,” he said. “Our goal was to make the grounds attractive, welcoming, and the office a more customer-friendly environment.”

Additionally, there were office computer upgrades and technology improvements.

Bergman conservatively estimated the cost of all improvements at $70,000.

A key task accomplished, Bergman said, was scanning all of Tama County Mental Health’s paper records and converting them to readily accessible electronic documents.

Those paper records were destroyed in strict compliance with HIPA requirements.

Bergman and staff knew that patients had quit doing business with Tama County Mental Health Center due to staff turnover and the change to Center Associates, but he put in place a game plan to get them back.

“We have seen a number of former patients return,” he said. “That will be an ongoing process in which each staff member plays an important role. The quality of service we offer every day determines if patients return.”

The center was serving 153 patients a month during the transition, now it is up to 400 per month, Bergman said.

Toledo staff are JoAnn Arguello, Sarah Beattie, Bergman, Chris DiNaso, Erin Gumm and Arreil Roe.

Bergman said he and staff will work to increase the number of patients seen.

Professional staff also have responsibilities serving clients in Hardin and Marshall counties.

Another significant change is that the Toledo center staff visit the nearby Meskwaki Settlement and Tama County schools.

Bergman emphasized Tama County residents and a multi-county group have aided greatly in the transition process, citing Bob Lincoln, Todd Ricker and the Tama County Board of Supervisors.

“Personally, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to be part of this change,” Bergman said. “It truly has been a team effort.”

Headquartered at 9 Fourth Ave. in Marshalltown, Center Associates has been providing mental health services to residents of Hardin, Marshall and Tama counties since 1958.

They are accredited by the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities with the Iowa Department of Human Services.