Monday, July 30, 2018

Mental Health/Politics in Iowa: 2018

Senator Grassley was quoted in the Quad City Times article on Thursday, July 25th, “I always stick to policy when I’m campaigning, and I would advise other people to stick to policy.” I agree with Senator Grassley and I want to address mental health issues in this state.

If Governor Kim Reynolds and the Republican legislature think they have corrected the mental health issues in this state they have their heads in the sand.

I have been over my head in family mental health issues this past year and as a professional hospital chaplain the experience gave me a frontline window.

First, there are dedicated people on the frontlines. They can’t always do what needs to be done. They live with constraints like everyone else. I have heard them first hand.

The mental health terrain is more like a countryside with a number of silos that don’t speak to each other. More collaboration between these institutional entities would be a start. The issue is not new, Dr. Vera French knew about this first hand. Years ago she brought Dr. Brotman to lead a workshop on this very subject. I was there. Instead of silos he called the separate entities grids. They have different training, certification, financing, language, policies, TURF, etc., that doesn’t make for the best cooperation and understanding. 

Second, Governor Reynolds and the Republican legislature may have gone forward with some items but they went backwards with others. You can’t reduce the budgets of the judicial system and the Department of Correction two years in a row and say you have done something for mental health when 40% of the inmates in the Scott County Jail have mental health problems. The Mental Health Court relies on people from the Department of Correction to keep in touch with clients. No state money has been allocated for the Mental Health Court which demonstrates they can save money: less jail time, less recidivism. 

Another place they went backward was to remove the court from the hearing decision after a 72 hour committal. I experienced this when I was told there would be a hearing the next day, three days after the new rule went into effect. The hearing never happened, no judge was present, and I wasn’t even present when the decision for discharge was made. The result: We had to go through the committal process all over again, leg work, paper work, discussion with various locations, while the bizarre behavior continued with the discharged patient. I am told the medical lobby won the day by removing a judge from the hearing. Strange to remove them when judges are present to approve the committal. You can draw your own conclusions as to who had the most money for that decision.

Third, Iowa is short long term beds for the mentally ill. The legislation is lacking. 

According to the NAMI of Iowa (National Association of Mental Illness) “A 2017 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center gave Iowa a D- grade for its mental health bed shortage. … The report said in 2016, Iowa ranked last of all states in terms of psychiatric bed availability, with only 1.2 beds per 100,000 adults: this is a far cry from the national average of about 12 beds per 100,000 adults.”

These articles, important as they are, don’t come close to the emotional impact you experience from all the complex realities at grand zero. We are most fortunate to have a supportive Church community for worship and conversation. They are also doing their part to support the Mental Health Court.

Three cheers for Mr. Hubbel who is hoping to elected Governor, a Democrat. He came to listen to the Mental Health Court Board and some of the clients. I saw him in action at a home gathering. He is a listener. In my management training and from my oldest son working for Hewlet Parkard when the two men were still present, I know about Management by Walking Around, MBWA. The book is called the HP Way. Mr. Hubbel has that style of leadership. He has listened to the mental health needs and he has a plan. He sent a person to hear my story. I will vote for him.

The Rev. Canon Marlin Whitmer, retired hospital chaplain
Now serving at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral as a community facilitator.

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