Weaving Personal Stories into IA Mental Health Policy Debates / Public News Service - freetxp

Weaving Personal Stories into IA Mental Health Policy Debates / Public News Service

Iowa is considering proposals to address access issues for people seeking mental-health care. And it isn’t just lobbyists meeting with lawmakers; More people are choosing to become first-time advocates and share their stories.

The pandemic shifted a bigger spotlight onto mental-health issues, and providers around the country report higher demand for services as people speak up about what they’re going through. Jennifer Thompson of Des Moines recently met with policymakers and told them more about her struggles with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

“I’m a dual-diagnosis patient, and it’s huge for me to be able to say that,” she said, “and I hope that I can be someone that other people can look at and say, ‘Hey, if she can do it, I can do it, too.”‘

Thompson took part in a “Day on the Hill,” led by the Iowa chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI officials have said they hope lawmakers don’t lose sight of the need to support mental-health services after they approved a major funding shift last year. To fill staffing voids, a bill this session would create dozens of psychiatric residencies at state facilities and care centers.

Amy Bassett of Urbandale said she decided to speak up after seeing mental health affect her husband and adult children for many years. In pushing for more residential-care services, she said there was suffering at times before her loved ones got the help they needed. Bassett said she wants to make sure that doesn’t happen to other families.

‘It fills my cup to be able to say, ‘I can help others;’ make it a little easier for them to get what they need,” she said.

While she found the courage to engage with policymakers, Bassett said, other families may not get needed attention, even with greater awareness.

“There are lots of people out here really struggling,” she said, “and just really need all we can make their lives better.”

In national rankings, Iowa is near the bottom in terms of psychiatrists per capita.

Disclosure: NAMI Iowa contributions to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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