Issue: Mental Health

Iowa Mental Health Advocates Applaud Signing of Bills

Iowa Mental health advocates turned out in force for the March 28 signing of two important bills recently passed unanimously by the Iowa Legislature. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bills in the Rotunda of the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. “We are excited about the significant progress these bills represent in improving our mental health system,” said Peggy Huppert, executive director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Iowa. “They’ve both been a long time coming. To see them pass unanimously and be signed on the same day is thrilling.”

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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.

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Mental Health Petition: It’s Time for Action in Iowa

Mental health treatment in our state languishes on the edges of the care continuum. It is a fragmented, frustrating – and sometimes deadly – non-system that leaves struggling Iowans stigmatized, marginalized and criminalized. We are failing. But even in this crisis, there are reasons for hope. Iowans have never been more aware and supportive of mental health.

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Hospital Innovates to Serve Kids’ Mental Health Needs

Bed-shortage issues, combined with the state’s low number of mental health providers and limited access points for services, leads to distressed people turning to hospital emergency rooms (ERs) for mental health care, which can be especially difficult for rural facilities that may not have infrastructures to appropriately provide behavioral care. At Mercy, we saw nearly 2,500 cases of mental health or substance abuse conditions in our ER last year.

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Clinics Replace ER for Treating Mental Illness

Yolanda Solar’s story shows the progress that people with mental illness can make when they receive prompt and comprehensive care. She has not returned to the emergency room since beginning treatment in August. Hospital staff scheduled her appointment at the transitional care clinic through a web-based computer system before she left the hospital. Like most patients, Solar was seen within a few days.

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Paramedics: A Key Link for Mental Health Care

For Paramedic Kelly Kjelstrom, plugging gaps in the mental health care system can mean something as simple as a late-night taco and a friendly chat. Part of his job is to help psychiatric patients in need of care avoid winding up in the emergency room, where they can get “boarded” for days, until they are released or a bed frees up at an inpatient facility.

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In Centerville, a Mental Health Success Story

As a “stabilization home,” Oak Place not only provides therapy, but also helps identify and meet immediate needs for local residents in crisis, including shelter, food and clothing. Most importantly, working with on-call licensed therapists, the local emergency room or jail can request a mental health screening at any time, ensuring that patients have their needs identified in a timely fashion and then met in an appropriate care setting.

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The State of Mental Health Care in Iowa

Although Iowa has made attempts to improve its behavioral health care delivery system, the system remains fragmented and is in need of more – more financial resources, more health care providers, more access points for patients needing services and more community resources to keep behavioral health patients healthy and close to home.

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Mental Health Care in Iowa is Fragmented and Costly

Iowa needs a full care continuum in behavioral health that includes sub-acute services, crisis intervention, crisis homes, nursing facility care and community-based services. With that infrastructure in place, more hospital inpatient psychiatric beds will become available for patients who truly need them, while patients needing less intensive care will receive it close to home. Properly investing in these more efficient and effective resources now will put our state on a path to reduce behavioral health care costs in the long run. Otherwise, reliance on stop-gap measures will continue to extract a high price from both Iowans and Iowa communities.

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