Des Moines University is inspired and grateful to partner with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation to meet a growing need for compassionate, accessible mental health care in the state. Today, that effort advanced further when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds gave her Condition of the State Address at the Iowa Capitol.
Last fall, DMU announced a bold proposal to become the nation’s first medical school to offer NAMI’s provider education program to our medical students as a way to give these future providers a deeper understanding of mental health issues. The University worked with The Des Moines Register to host a highly attended December forum of gubernatorial candidates to discuss the need for more mental health care. Then, on Dec. 14, the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation announced a lead gift of $50,000 to help launch the DMU-NAMI Provider Education Project.
Today, among the points and priorities Governor Reynolds discussed in her Condition of the State Address, she described steps the state has taken in recent years to expand mental health coverage. She then added, “But we must do more, and I know we can. That’s why I look forward to partnering with Des Moines University and the National Alliance on Mental Illness on their exciting new initiative, where every new doctor will receive the training and skills to identify and treat a patient with a mental health challenge.”
Governor Reynolds said she has included money in her budget for the program. “It will be the first of its kind, and since Des Moines University trains more primary care physicians than any other medical school in the country, it’s a significant step forward.”
Currently, Iowa ranks 48th in the nation in the number of psychiatrists per capita. Of the state’s 99 counties, 89 are designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in mental health. For Iowans in need of inpatient psychiatric care, the situation is even more dire. There were just two psychiatric beds per 100,000 residents in 2016, placing Iowa last in the country.
Iowa will never have enough psychiatrists, which is why the NAMI provider education program is critical: It is designed to further educate primary care physicians – often the first to encounter patients’ mental health problems – how to recognize, diagnose and manage mental illness, hence accelerating the process of delivering vital care to those in need.
“We are all so appreciative of the support we have to move forward with this important initiative,” said Angela L. Walker Franklin, Ph.D., president of DMU and a licensed clinical psychologist. “We are grateful to Governor Reynolds for adding her support today. Together, we can take action to address this critical need in our state.”