Iowa is Second Worst State in Recent Mental Health Report

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Mental health in Iowa is becoming more than a concern. Experts are calling it a miserable situation and the state doesn't stack up well across the nation.

Four percent of Iowans suffer from a severe mental illness, but many believe those numbers are being ignored. Iowa is now on a list that's not worth being proud of.

“Iowa consistently ranks in the bottom five of all states in every single category of mental health programs and services,” said Peggy Huppert, NAMI Iowa Executive Director.

Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed a bill last July aiming to restore services at hospitals in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. According to a new study by the Treatment Advocacy Center, Iowa now ranks 49th in the country with just 64 state mental hospital beds.

“Compare that to the 1950s at the height of people being treated when there were 7,000 beds,” Huppert said.

Utah, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas are all similar to Iowa in population but have nearly 4 times and in some cases, nearly 8 times the amount of state beds.

“We think private beds can certainly meet the needs if they are there and if the money is there,” Huppert said.

There is a total of 731 beds public and private in Iowa, but statistics show nearly 123,000 Iowans have a serious mental illness. That number is slightly less than the total population of Iowa’s second largest city: Cedar Rapids.

“It’s been an issue for some time, and getting worse,” said Jeff Jarding, of Broadlawns Medical Center.

Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines supports mental health in a private setting but rarely has room.

“We run at capacity almost all the time,” Jarding said.

So they send patients to cities like Sioux City and Dubuque, which are hours away.

"We send them everywhere, and we need to on a regular basis,” Jarding said.

To make sure these doors stay open to those in need, Broadlawns plans to increase their already 30 inpatient mental health beds nearly 50 percent by July 2017.

“It’s huge. Not only for the city, but 14 beds is huge for the state,” Jarding said.

But will remain in a critical state until lawmakers bring the growing problem into the spotlight.

"Governor Branstad talks about how he wants Iowa to be the healthiest state, but part of being the healthiest state is having a healthy mental state as well,” Huppert said.

Help could be on the way in the form of psychiatrists. In March, Branstad announced $4 million in funds to increase the state's psychiatric residency program, which was previously only at the University of Iowa. It now includes Broadlawns, Mercy and UnityPoint.

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