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Carole Gustafson on Wednesday explains aspects of a website a group of social service agencies has developed that will be a one-stop shop for local mental health resources. 

WATERLOO — A new information clearinghouse is available for those seeking help with mental health care in the Cedar Valley.

A coalition of nonprofit organizations and service providers is launching a new website Wednesday to help people navigate what can be a complex subject during often difficult times.

Carole Gustafson, director of Cedar Valley’s Promise, said the idea for the site called Cedar Valley Mental Health Connections was hatched more than a year ago through discussions among groups working to address the area’s mental health care needs.

“It kept coming up in our discussion: If we just had a one-stop place that people could go to get information,” Gustafson said.

The website at cedarvalleymentalhealthconnections.org was developed by Cedar Valley’s Promise, the University of Northern Iowa’s psychology and social work departments, UnityPoint Health/Black Hawk-Grundy Mental Health Center and the Black Hawk County 1st Five Program.

The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa provided grant funding for the web development costs.

A key feature is a list of providers in the area that details the type of services provided, credentials and hours. Individuals seeking providers can also search by typing in their city or zip code.

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“If you are a consumer in the community and you go to the phone book, it gives you a whole list of therapists or counselors,” Gustafson said. “But it doesn’t break it down (among specialties) so it makes it really difficult.

“When you’re dealing with a mental health crisis, whether it’s for yourself or a family member, you don’t have time to call 10 different practitioners trying to find somebody to help you,” she added.

UNI graduate students are tasked with periodically making sure the information is up to date, but service providers seeking to have their information added to the list are asked to make contact through the website.

The website also provides educational information, including a glossary of terms, conditions and medications for individuals and their family members. Providers can find information about upcoming training sessions or seminars related to their fields.

“We don’t provide any services,” Gustafson said. “The information is provided on the site freely; we don’t charge anyone for the information.”

While the site provides information about crisis services and the national suicide prevention hotline, Gustafson said it is not designed as the entry point for a person in need of emergency help.

“This is a tool to get you started,” she said. “But if you are in full-out crisis you need to go to the hospital.”

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Waterloo City Reporter

Waterloo city reporter for the Courier

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