Zachary Oren Smith, Iowa City Press-Citizen Published 3:39 p.m. CT April 17, 2020
The new, east side University of Iowa Counseling Service location aims to make it easier for students to access mental health services.(Photo: Holly Hines / Iowa City Press-Citizen)
As our state and nation continue to suffer from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic on various fronts, many Iowans will face inevitable adverse effects to their mental health.
The regrettable decisions by past Iowa governors and legislators to close several mental health centers across the state are contributing to the current mental health crisis.
To her credit, Governor Kim Reynolds on March 29, 2018 expanded mental health services across the state and added "Does that bill fix everything that's wrong here in Iowa? No. I think it is a good start.
It is clear the COVID-19 pandemic will significantly impact themental health of many Iowans. Loss of employment, economic hardships, childrens homeschooling, isolation of the elderly, losing loved ones, worrying about the future, and stress and trauma experienced by those on the front lines indicate that we are facing a different kind of crisis.
Children, teens and adults are experiencing stress, depression, emotional, and mental anguishas they struggle on many fronts. This pandemic represents a huge public health crisis affecting Iowans of all ages as well as disproportionally impacting minority and low-income communities that are experiencing higher rates of infection and death. There are now serious concerns for the safety of Iowa prison inmates following the reported April 10 first infection.
Special attention must be paid to Iowa health care professionals on the front line who are witnessing death and dying now and prepare for the time of increased numbers of hospitalizations and infections when they will suffer from extraordinary stress, feelings of impending doom, anxiety, and gloom.
Data from studies during the SARS epidemic predicted acute stress disorder and PTSD for health care professionals.
Mental health experts need to intervene to help protect health care professionals' mental health, not just their physical health. This was done inChinaand we should follow their lead. Some universities, likeUNC-Chapel Hilland theUniversity of California, San Francisco, have been leaders in this effort, deploying their psychiatric workforce as volunteers.Mental health cannot be an afterthought in coping with a pandemic.
On November 2019, Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque closed its sub-acute center, leaving a void for mental health services in nine counties across the East Central region including Johnson County.
Mae Hingtgen, CEO ofMental Health and Disability Services said. Not having this service available could put a strain on other community agencies and that Hillcrest has the only sub-acute program in the region. The challenges that we could face would be to our hospitals and to our sheriffs department. Certainly sometimes when people are facing instability, they might engage in behaviors that would require law enforcement involvement.
The National Alliance on Mental Health of Iowa/Johnson County shared a new report placing Iowa last for mental health facilities and services, trailing the rest of the country.
Iowa leaders must act promptly to alleviate its mental health care deficit, especially in rural areas,and it is more critical now during this pandemic.
Johnson County and UIHC continue to offer several resources for Iowans. Securing mental health care can be problematic for low-income patients and those who are uninsured or under-insured. A University of Iowa Mobile Clinic run by medical students is offering services free of charge including mental health assistance and referral. Contact:email@example.com (319) 535-2684
Residents can also use the DHS website YourLifeIowa.org for information on substance abuse, suicide preventionand mental health by connecting to live chat or by phone (855-581-8111)
If a therapist is needed, contact your local hospital or mental health treatment center to find out how they are adapting their services to receive support and assistance.
The Iowa City Press-Citizen is a volunteer board of readers that meet weekly. They are Venise Berry, Dave Bright, Shams Ghoneim, Robert Goodfellow, Kylah Hedding and John Macatee.
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