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Filling a Major Mental-Health Gap: Can Local Hospitals Meet the Need for Inpatient Beds, or Is a New For-Profit Hospital the Answer? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 12 November 2015 05:04

In August, Tennessee-based Strategic Behavioral Health unveiled plans to build a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in Scott County. The for-profit company’s proposal – which will be considered by the Iowa Health Facilities Council in February – was greeted with enthusiasm by many public officials and community mental-health providers, dozens of whom wrote letters of support.

There were two notable dissenters: the area’s existing hospitals. Genesis Health System and UnityPoint Health Trinity wrote in opposition, with an overarching argument that they are addressing current shortcomings in the system. The two hospitals plan to add 65 new inpatient psychiatric beds in the Quad Cities by the middle of 2017.

The mental-health system is complex, and inpatient psychiatric beds represent a small but crucial part of the mix – providing care for those who are a danger to themselves or others. In truth, though, the present void in the local market is less an issue of physical infrastructure than the dearth of psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals in the area. That shortage has been a major factor in the Quad Cities having too few beds available for people with serious mental illnesses.

Strategic Behavioral Health’s proposal must also be considered in the context of a changing mental-health-care system. Iowa in 2014 shifted to 15 multi-county delivery areas throughout the state, with Scott County in a five-county region. Crucially, this system is intended to deliver care in “the least restrictive setting possible,” according to Iowa Department of Human Services Director Charles M. Palmer. That represents a shift away from institutional and inpatient psychiatric care.

Still, nobody disputes that the Quad Cities region desperately needs more inpatient psychiatric care, especially for minor and geriatric populations. As the 2013 report “A Safety Net in Peril: The State of Public Health in the Quad Cities” noted: “While the community mental-health centers have proven to be cost-effective in providing high-quality outpatient care and community services, the need for inpatient care has gone largely unmet.” The effect is that people with the most severe cases of mental illness are either not getting the proper level of treatment or are being transferred far away from the Quad Cities.

That hasn’t abated in the past two years, but now the area basically has two competing plans to address the shortage: Strategic Behavioral Health’s proposed hospital and the two local hospitals’ expansions of inpatient psychiatric care.

Winners and Favorites from Our 2015 Short-Fiction Contest PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 29 October 2015 05:47

Our 2015 short-fiction contest featured 15 prompts from spooky fiction both famous (Dracula, Frankenstein, ’Salem’s Lot) and obscure. Entrants were required to include one of the prompts and craft a story in fewer than 250 additional words.

Here are our winners and favorites. Enjoy!

Making a Killing: Ballet Quad Cities Premieres "Murder Mystery at the Ballet," October 9 through 17 at the Scottish Rite Cathedral PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 01 October 2015 06:00

Murder Mystery at the Ballet, cover photo by Joseph S. MaciejkoWith a foreboding Beethoven composition lending an incongruously somber air to the proceedings, Ballet Quad Cities’ ensemble is rehearsing. The brightly lit studio space finds the 10 company members engaged in all manner of movement during these five minutes of Ludwig van: two male dancers tussling in the foreground; another male skulking in the background; a petite female gliding amongst her fellow dancers and voicelessly addressing one with an accusatory glare.

A quartet of ensemble members collectively lunges and thrusts while, on the other side of the studio, a young woman makes seductive overtures toward one of her scene partners, and, eventually, nearly everyone lines up to gracefully pass a fist-sized, invisible prop from one dancer to another. That’s when choreographer Courtney Lyon comes up to me and, regarding the unseen object, whispers, “That’s a bottle of poison.”

Given that many of the company’s recent fall productions have found guest performer Domingo Rubio casually killing dancers in his role as Dracula, the appearance (or, at this moment, non-appearance) of a potential murder weapon in a Ballet Quad Cities endeavor shouldn’t raise anyone’s eyebrows. What might, however, is the degree of difficulty involved in the company’s 2015-16 season-opener Murder Mystery at the Ballet – a world premiere in which, as of that September 21 rehearsal, even its chief creator doesn’t know whodunit.

Enter the Reader’s 2015 Short-Fiction Contest: Spooky Stories! October 20 Deadline! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 24 September 2015 09:14

Our 2015 short-fiction contest features 15 creepy prompts, and the deadline for entries is 9 a.m. on October 20.

We’ll publish winners and favorites in the October 29 issue of the River Cities’ Reader – just in time for Halloween. Stories don’t need to be scary, but ... ’tis the season.

The rules:

A) Entries, including titles, must be 250 words or fewer – not counting the passage required in Rule G. We recommend being careful or leaving some breathing room.

B) Entries must be typed.

C) Entries must include the author’s name, mailing address, and daytime phone number.

D) Entries must be previously unpublished.

E) Entries must be received by 9 a.m. on Tuesday, October 20, 2015. We will accept submissions by e-mail ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with “Fiction Contest” as the subject line); mail (532 W. 3rd St., Davenport IA 52801, with “Fiction Contest” on the envelope); and fax (563-323-3101). Please do not request confirmation of receipt.

F) People may submit as many as five entries, but no more than one for any given prompt.

G) All stories must include one of the 15 passages below. Outside of using a given passage within the story, no fidelity or relationship to the source is required.

From Wasteland to Treasure: Nahant Marsh Marks 15 Years as a Nature Preserve PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 17 September 2015 05:35

An aerial view of Nahant Marsh. Photo by Connor Woollums.

Even a brief visit to Davenport’s Nahant Marsh will show something unusual: a wetland habitat nestled in an area that includes an interstate highway, a railroad, and various agricultural and industrial uses. You’ll likely see plants and animals that you won’t find anywhere else in the Quad Cities area, just a few minutes’ drive from the Rockingham Road exit of Interstate 280 in the southwestern part of the city.

“We know it’s the largest urban wetland between St. Paul and St. Louis” along the Mississippi River, said Executive Director Brian Ritter. “We think it’s one of the largest urban wetlands in the United States.”

Yet getting a fuller sense of the marsh requires patience. As Nahant Marsh Board President Tim Murphy noted: “The marsh does not usually reveal itself easily but will come to those that sit and take the time to observe.”

In an e-mail, he said that “I really like the beaver complex in the northern part of Nahant proper. ... I never cease to be amazed at how beavers have created a substantial pond on ground that has almost no flow of water. I am very curious to see how this pond will be colonized and used by plants and other animals, as well. This seems to me to be an example of how nature works ... largely outside of human influence. ...

“There are also other fish-free shallow-water excavations that hopefully will become areas that hold and nurture a variety of amphibians, including newts and salamanders. The number of little critters that can be found in the marsh proper is really amazing. ... There are almost always some ducks, geese, herons, or other waterfowl using the marsh. To see a muskrat, beaver, or otter takes quite a bit more luck ... .”

Julie Malake – a photographer, artist, and member of the Friends of Nahant Marsh – offered several examples of repeated, leisurely visits showing different facets of the wetland: “A particularly magical change has been the return of the sandhill cranes,” she wrote. “During the first years of going to the marsh [starting in 2006], I saw no cranes. In the spring of 2011, I first saw a crane at Nahant Marsh, and since then, cranes have been regular visitors. This year, sandhill cranes have been seen frequently, and I’ve been able to observe them often.”

She continued by calling Nahant Marsh “a wild, ever-changing garden full of once-widespread native plants, and [it] is extremely popular with many kinds of birds. ... What they [visitors] might see will vary widely from day to day, even moment to moment. I would also recommend to those who do visit to take their time and be still a while. Chances are good that the marsh’s residents will forget your presence and simply go about their business. There’s always much more going on there than is readily apparent.”

The marsh will be celebrating its 15th anniversary as a nature preserve and education center on October 20 with a 5 to 8 p.m. family event featuring “river rat” Kenny Salwey, musicians Ellis Kell and Kendra Swanson, food, and (hopefully) a classic Nahant Sunset. The celebration will provide a taste of what Malake called “a piece of heaven on earth. I love to walk outdoors before dawn, going down to the water’s edge to sit quietly as all the colors of sunrise slowly paint their way down the bluff and across the water. I have been going there for almost 10 years now, and no two days have ever been the same. In every season, in every weather, in all the different times, there have been images of beauty, and sometimes surprises.”

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