What Mental Health Institutes Closures Mean for Southern Iowa

Jan 20, 2015

In the budget proposal he released last week, Governor Branstad quietly cut funding for two of Iowa's four mental health institutes.

Rick Shults, Mental Health and Disability Services Division Administrator  at the Iowa Department of Human Services, says the facilities in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda will slow admissions come February. That means the southern third of the state will lose more than half of its in-patient psychiatric beds.

Nancy Hale is the executive director for Iowa chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She says, while the institutes are far from a perfect solution, private community-based mental health services can't completely cover the state's needs.

Shults asserts this is a realignment of services: there will be a corresponding increase in the number of in-patient beds in the remaining mental health institutes in Cherokee and Independence and increased community-based services will pick up the slack. But Hale remains dubious of this solution; she says having to travel to the northern part of the state for treatment will rip patients away from their support networks. 

In this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Shults and Hale about what the closure of the mental health institutes means for the state of mental healthcare in Iowa.