Iowans face improved mental health services - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowans face improved mental health services

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The Iowa Department of Human Services is one major step closer to a redesign of its Division of Mental Health and Disability Services.

A final report of recommended changes came out Friday, amid a statewide shortage of psychiatrists.

DHS director Chuck Palmer said Monday the number of psychiatrists per capita puts Iowa in the bottom five states in the nation.

The proposed changes, however, address more than just that.

The report includes the results of a survey of nearly 1,600 Iowa mental health consumers and their family members. Forty percent of responded said they're dissatisfied with the current Mental Health and Disability Services system.

Legislators passed the Mental Health Reform Bill earlier this year, directing the DHS to propose changes.

After 10 public input meetings and a number of other public input opportunities, the DHS submitted its final recommendations to the interim legislative committee, made up of Democrats and Republicans from both the Iowa House and Senate, which will discuss the report Monday, Dec. 19.

Palmer said he expects the committee to create legislation this month to propose to legislators in the upcoming session.

Dee Mosiman and her husband Steve live in Dubuque and have two sons, the younger of whom has schizophrenia.

"We have been around the block several times in the mental health system," Dee Mosiman said.

"It's just given us a new perspective and added compassion for lots of people," Steven Mosiman said.

Beyond their personal experience, the two are involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Dubuque, so they've learned from other families touched by mental illness.

"In a way, we are fortunate to live in this community," Dee Mosiman said, "but with the redesign process, it's going to be more equal services throughout the state, and I think that would be fantastic."

Currently, Iowa provides mental health services on a county-by-county basis. The redesign is proposing a system made of up anywhere from five to 15 regions.

"I think that will be excellent," Dee Mosiman said, "because there will be more choices for the mentally-ill folks."

That's especially true for those in rural areas, who must travel farther to receive services. In fact, Palmer said there are several Iowa counties without a single psychiatrist.

"If you don't have close-up experience, it's difficult to empathize with what's really going on," Steve Mosiman said.

The couple hopes shedding light on the issue helps remove the stigma of mental illness.

"I mean, the brain is such a complex thing that, you know, people just don't really understand," Steve Mosiman said.

The report estimates at impact of $42.3 million in additional state funding for the first year of the redesign. The Division of Mental Health and Disability Services reform is meant to take place over the course of five years.

Palmer said the goal of the redesign is to provide adequate mental health care to all Iowans, regardless of where they live, rural or urban.

To read the DHS proposal, click HERE.

Visit the MHDS Redesign HERE

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