Loebsack's roundtable discussion on mental health - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Loebsack holds roundtable discussion on issues regarding mental health

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The group of mental health professionals filling a University of Iowa hospitals conference room all agree on one thing:

"We know that there are serious problems of inadequate access for people who are suffering from these tragic conditions," said Dr. Jimmy Potash, University Iowa Hospitals and Clinics professor and head of psychiatry. 

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has spurred conversations about providing better services for people suffering from mental illness.

That means better funding for the system, which in Iowa, many believe is under-funded by a substantial amount.

"We would probably need about $120 million more in the state than exists right now," Potash said.

Representative Dave Loebsack, (D-Iowa), heard from some of the state's leaders in the field Wednesday about the current barriers that exist to receiving care.

Some choose not to seek help because of the stigma that comes along with the illness.

Hundreds of other Iowans sit on long waiting lists.

A majority of the population lives far away from available psychiatric help.

"So many folks live in the rural areas, we have to make sure that they have the access to mental health services as well," Loebsack said.

Treatment is crucial for those who are mentally sick.

Schools depend on counselors and school psychologists to be the front line in mental illness diagnoses and referral, and those positions are many times the first to go when budgets are cut.

"The majority of students that have some sort of emotional or behavioral difficulties, many of them are internalizing, not violent at all, but obviously something that can be a danger to themselves, and sometimes to other people if left unchecked," said John Hosp, chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning in the UI's college of education.

A complex issue, but evidence that further discussion and action are needed to help reduce barriers.

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