Partners in crisis

In a partnership that has grown throughout the years, The Crisis Center of Johnson County and University of Iowa Health Care have a common goal: to improve the health of the local community. Together, they reach more people and play off the strengths and expertise of each other.

Community Benefit

By working together, The Crisis Center and UI Health Care help improve mental health and hunger through community education, food drives, and a new process for stabilization for those who need mental health care.

Mobile Crisis Unit: going where help is needed

In a newer initiative, The Crisis Center’s Mobile Crisis Outreach Program works closely with the Emergency Department at UI Hospitals and Clinics to get community members the mental health care they need. The Mobile Crisis Unit travels wherever the person in need is located, does a suicide risk assessment, sends them to the emergency room if needed, or puts them in a crisis destabilization bed to stabilize them.

Many community members, however, who are experiencing a mental health crisis, may go directly to the emergency room. But if that person doesn’t need emergency medical attention, the Emergency Department will contact The Crisis Center to help with the situation.

“Our partnership with UI Health Care benefits everyone involved,” says Beau Pinkham, director of crisis intervention services for The Crisis Center. “We serve as hospital diversion, while at the same time getting people the help they need.”

The Crisis Center also gets calls from concerned school teachers or family members regarding someone who is having thoughts of suicide or other mental health issues. In addition to the Mobile Crisis Unit, other resources include their Crisis Line at 319-351-0140 or 1-855-325-4296, or live chat on their website.

Suicide prevention and awareness

Kevin Briggs, a.k.a, the Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge, speaks at the UI Carver College of Medicine about suicide prevention.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and each year The Crisis Center hosts an event meant to raise community awareness and reduce the stigma of talking about suicide and mental health issues facing those in our community.

UI Health Care has been a financial and in-kind partner with The Crisis Center’s Suicide Prevention Month events. Events in the past have included speakers such as Kevin Briggs, a.k.a, the Guardian of the Golden Gate Bridge, a former patrol officer who stopped around 200 people from jumping off the bridge.

More recently, The Crisis Center hosted a film screening of The S Word, which UI Health Care sponsored and helped promote to its employees, as well as to patients and visitors.

“The reach of our prevention messages has spread to so many more people through this partnership with UI Health Care, and the film screening probably wouldn’t have happened without it,” says Sara Sedlacek, communications and development director at The Crisis Center. The film screening had more than 200 people in attendance, the most they’ve ever had for a suicide awareness event.

The screening also included a panel discussion with area mental health experts, including UI Health Care psychiatric social worker Lance Clemsen. “We’ve been able to tap into some expertise [within UI Health Care] that we otherwise may not have access to,” Sedlacek adds.

Thanksgiving in July: helping fill the pantry shelves

Tom Walljasper and Aubry Kunze of UI Health Care Marketing and Communications help organize food collection for Thanksgiving in July each year.

Every July, local food pantries, including The Crisis Center, organize a Thanksgiving in July community-wide food drive to help those in our community experiencing food insecurity.

The Crisis Center provides food collection barrels and signage to various locations across UI Health Care, and UI Health Care promotes the donation opportunity to its employees throughout the month. At the end of July each year, all donations are delivered to the food bank. “It’s been a great and easy way to get people involved who may not take the step to volunteer, but want to contribute,” says Sedlacek.

UI Health Care’s partnership “contributes to our credibility within the community, to the work that we do, and helps decrease the stigma for those with suicidal thoughts,” Sedlacek says. “What a wonderful partnership it’s been. It fits well.”

Reach out. Report. Repeat.

Each year, UI Health Care reports its community benefit: programs or activities that provide treatment or promote health and healing as a response to identified community need.

Learn more about what qualifies as community benefit, and report your department’s impact by contacting the community benefit team at 335-8886,, or by visiting the Community Benefit SharePoint site.

Read more stories of UI Health Care’s community benefit activities.