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Letters to the Editor

Mental health institutes are not the place for violent offenders

News media recently reported on a patient at the Independence Mental Health Institute (MHI) who attempted to kill a fellow patient and threatened to kill a staff member. This patient has a long history of violent behavior, including his time at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville. As an inmate, two Correctional Officers were required to transport him for hospital visits because of his violent tendencies. Staff at Independence MHI tell us that the patient made death threats against multiple employees, including anyone who aided in a crisis intervention with the patient.

It is no secret our mental health system in the state of Iowa is in crisis. Iowa’s two remaining MHIs serve a critical role for those with severe mental illness. The staff does an exceptional job of meeting the needs of their patients. They are not Correctional Officers and do not have the capacity to protect themselves while providing the level of care required by someone plotting to kill others in their midst.

When violent sexual predators pose a significant threat to society, CCUSO is an effective, safe placement within the Department of Human Services. Unfortunately, the same options do not exist for violent, mentally ill patients. An equivalent facility equipped to handle these individuals is a missing piece in our mental health system.

I hope the tragic situation that was averted by taking this patient into custody will be taken seriously and measures will be put in place to prioritize patient and staff safety within our mental health facilities.

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