MASON CITY | Officials at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa announced details concerning a new $9.78 million, 27,200 square-foot facility for its behavioral health department at a press conference Wednesday morning.

The project is partially being funded by the Jan Again Foundation, who donated an additional $900,000. Those funds will be used to build a Help Center at the front of the new facility, which will be built to the north of the hospital's emergency entrance.

The rest of the project will be funded through a reinvestment of Mercy's funds and capital, Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa President/CEO Dan Varnum said.

The Jan Again Foundation was established in 1999 for Jan Smeby, who suffered from depression and took her own life in 1998. The foundation gave $68,000 in grants to North Iowa mental health and wellness last September.

Smeby's husband, Wally, is an advisor to the foundation and said he was pleased when he saw the renderings of the new facility. He added he hopes the new addition can help save lives, and commended Dr. Theresa Mock, senior vice president of Mercy Clinics, for her efforts.

"There has to be a leader in this," he said. "And there is a real visionary in Dr. Mock."

Currently, Mercy is usually only able to serve up to 22 patients in its behavioral center at a time. Mock said the new facility will be able to house 34 behavioral health service patients.

"Currently, we have 28 beds but they're in semi-private rooms," Mock told reporters. "Obviously you can't mix gender there, but also, you have patients who can't have a roommate."

Other improvements include open-concept nurse stations and sensory or "calming rooms" that offer different forms of intervention when patients are overstimulated. 

Mock told the Globe Gazette that because of a lack of resources, Mercy had to turn away 3,000 patients last year. She said that with the new facilities, the hospital is aiming not to be in that position.

"Our goal is to not turn anyone away in the state of Iowa," Mock said.

The two-floor facility will be divided by inpatient and outpatient services. The second floor will house 24 private rooms, group therapy room, dining room and additional space, while the first floor will feature Intensive Outpatient and Partial Hospitalization programs.

The aforementioned Help Center will provide general information and community resources about mental illness.

Construction is scheduled to begin this fall, and should be completed by the summer of 2019. Neighbors and community members are invited to attend a public forum about the project Sept. 6 from 6-7 p.m. in the second-floor auditorium of Mercy's Cancer Center.


Contact Steve at 641-421-0532 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.


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