Doctors increase mental health services to rural Iowa kids
Thursday, November 30, 2023
Research shows two in 10 Iowa youth report they have considered suicide, and to confront the crisis, doctors and social scientists are using federal grant money to expand mental health services to rural Iowa children.
Child care and mental health experts at the University of Iowa are using a $2.5 million federal grant to reach out, especially to rural schools, which often lack services.
Dr. Tom Scholz, professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa and director of the division of child and community health, said the trend was well on its way before the pandemic, which only made things worse. He stressed making up for lost time is critical.
"The sooner we can get at those kids, the sooner we can make the diagnosis, the sooner we can initiate therapies, the better those kids are going to do in school and with interactions with their family," Scholz outlined. "And as a foundation as they launch into their post school activities, into adulthood."
Doctors will partner with schools and a dozen community health centers scattered around rural Iowa to serve more young people who need mental health care.
Scholz pointed out the grant will help provide more online psychiatric visits for children, and researchers are working with local health centers to serve as many youths as possible in person. It's help that might otherwise be unavailable, because many kids are far from urban centers.
"It would have required them traveling to Des Moines, Iowa City, maybe Omaha," Scholz explained. "But we're able to provide services in the communities nearer to where they live."
The new grant allows University of Iowa psychiatrists to continue and broaden the work they have been doing. Last year alone, mental health specialists worked with community health centers in rural Iowa to provide nearly 2,000 online psychiatry visits for children who need help.
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