The state of mental health in Iowa, ‘we’ve got a long way to go’

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DES MOINES, Iowa-- "Its a public health crisis. It's not just an issue or a problem. It's impacting all of our lives," says Tamra Oman, a key note speaker at the Iowa Mental Health Conference.

Iowa ranks at the very bottom nationwide when it comes to access to mental health services.

"Iowa is in a changing situation right now with how we fund our mental health care and where we are with Iowa versus the rest of the nation, and we've got a long way to go," says conference chairman and psychologist Frank Fleming.

And that's what makes this year's statewide mental health conference that much more important.

The goal is education.

"To teach us to better utilize the options we have out there and how to work with the new systems we have and how to battle for our patients in getting them the kinds of care they deserve," says Fleming.

It was the first time at the conference for Joe Cowley. He runs the Quad Cities Center for Alcohol and Drug Services and plans to take what he learns in Des Moines back home.

"A lot of times people struggle trying to engage clients and what their needs are. They're trying to fix them, and that's not necessarily our role, to fix them. It's really to engage them and help them fix themselves," says Cowley.

But there's a bigger lesson everyone can learn. It's a lesson in hope.

"You matter. Your life matters. You have a powerful impact in everybody's life whether we're at the bus stop, Walmart, or talking with a neighbor. Every interaction you have with another human being might be the difference with them seeing hope for their future which changes our whole culture. It changes our world," says Oman.

They are promoting change.

"I think we have advanced our treatments and advanced public opinion, but we've got a long, long way to go," says Fleming.

They are empowering Iowans in a time they need it most.