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Iowa's Mental Health Crisis

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The Steele Report Special Edition: Iowa's Mental Health Crisis 

Iowa's mental health crisis is a crisis which evolves around mental health treatment, availability of treatment and beds, doctors and health insurance. 

The Cedar Valley Mental Health Planning Coalition is working hard behind the scenes to confront this mental health care crisis. The coalition is sponsored by the Cedar Valley United Way. The goal is measurably improve community mental health treatment capacity and access to services for persons with mental health problems. And who will benefit from the results? That will be Cedar Valley residents whom have been diagnosed, or are concerned they, or someone they know, may have a mental health problem. 

So why is it important? 

It's estimated that one in five children in Black Hawk has a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavior disorder. That's more than 5,000 kids, plus, many will have a serious emotional disturbance, significantly impairing their ability to function in school and at home. In addition, one in four adults in this area will experience a mental health problem or illness, but these individuals will never receive any treatment because of the stigma associated with mental illness, or their lack of insurance or transportation to get there. 

Iowa also ranks near the very bottom (47th in the country) in the number of psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric beds available for the treatment of patients. And 31% of the Black Hawk County jail population are individuals with a diagnosed mental health problem and receive treatment for that problem inside the jail. 

Participants in the Cedar Valley Mental Health Coalition have ranked their top priorities when it comes to mental health services. Top priority is crisis intervention for adolescents. The second is crisis intervention of children. The third is crisis intervention for adults. The participants all said the community is not meeting those needs. Next on the list of priorities not being met are mental health screening and prevention for adolescents, impatient treatment for adolescents, and crisis intervention for seniors. While there is a great need for senior crisis intervention, screening and prevention for seniors gets a high mark, participants said that need is being met. Only three of the top 24 priorities on the list were rated as being met, while 14 of the top 24 priorities were rated as not being met in our community. 

While community based mental health services provide most of the local care, the state of Iowa has two mental health hospitals still open for the most seriously ill mental health patients. 

Iowa has closed state mental health hospitals in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda, leaving two others open in Cherokee and at the very well known state hospital in Independence, commonly known as The Mental Health Institute. It was built in 1873 to relieve overcrowding at the state hospital in Mt. Pleasant. Located in Sprawling Land just west of Independence, MHI is the facility of last resort when it comes to treating Iowa's most seriously ill mental patients. MHI is for acute psychiatric treatment. It has been called many names over its 144 years, names like the Independence Lunatic Asylum and the Independence Asylum for the the insane. 

There was a time when nearly every Iowa County had its own way of dealing with providing mental health services. Today, the state of Iowa is divided into 14 regions. The Cedar Valley is part of a 22-county region know as County Social Services

County Social Services provides financial support for mental health and disability services programs to individuals in that 22 county area of North Central Iowa. 


Help in Iowa is always available: 


TALK: 1-855-800-1239

TEXT: 1-855-800-1239

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