Iowans Agree: Mental Health Should Top State Priorities

More than ever, Iowans are ready to see improvements to the state’s mental health system – and they are also willing to help pay for it.

In its latest Iowa Poll, the Des Moines Register reports that nearly three out of four Iowans agree that the state’s mental health care system is in crisis or, at a minimum, “a big problem.” By a significant margin, the poll shows Iowans view mental health as the state’s biggest problem, even more than water quality, public education or rising tuition costs at state universities.

One poll participant quoted by the Register seems to have captured the urgency: “People aren’t just falling through the cracks — these are canyons,” said Sarah Schagt, a nurse from Audubon.

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The poll also shows a large majority of Iowans are willing to raise taxes to help pay for mental health care. According to the Register, two-thirds of the poll respondents said they support raising the state sales tax by 1 cent to pay for a combination of mental health and water quality initiatives.

Notably, the Register asked a similar question last year, but that poll paired water quality with improved outdoor recreation. At the time, 56 percent of the respondents were willing to increase the state sales tax for those priorities. Support grew to 67 percent when the question included funding for mental health – and that increased support came despite the poll proposing a full-cent increase, more than double what the 2017 poll proposed.

“We are heartened, but not surprised, at the results of the Iowa Poll,” said Peggy Huppert, executive director of NAMI Iowa, which advocates on behalf of Iowans and families dealing with mental illness. “This is an issue that affects nearly every Iowan in some way, and it’s been neglected. It’s time to right that wrong.”

“The results of the Iowa Poll are both discouraging and uplifting,” said Anne Discher, executive director of the Iowa Child and Family Policy Center. “They are discouraging because Iowans are accurately identifying a very real problem—deep inadequacies in the state’s mental health system. But the results are uplifting because they also demonstrate Iowans’ desire for concrete action to address the problem.”

Thousands of Iowans who support improved mental health care have signed an online petition. To join them, click here.