In our culture the mind is separate from the body. The medical model we live with reflects the separation, and political policies reflect that idea. Individuals who think nothing of sharing their diabetes diagnosis might do anything to avoid a diagnosis of depression. Our public policy is to keep mental health coverage in one silo, and physical health services in another. Meanwhile, science and greater awareness of other cultural norms have shown that mind and body is intertwined: illness in one often creates illness in the other, health for one means better health for the other.

Measured by access to care and access to psychiatric beds, the worst place in the industrial world to suffer from mental illness is the U.S. By the same measure, Iowa is last in the nation. Living in Iowa may well be dangerous for your wellbeing.

That’s why the Iowa Hospital Association launched a legislative action alert, asking Iowan’s to ask our legislators for better mental health care in Iowa. Here is what the IHA had to say in their call to action.

Mental health treatment in our state languishes on the edges of the care continuum. It is a fragmented, frustrating – and sometimes deadly – non-system that leaves struggling Iowans stigmatized, marginalized and criminalized.

We are failing.

But even in this crisis, there are reasons for hope. Iowans have never been more aware and supportive of mental health. Across the state at meeting halls, government chambers, hospitals, churches, police stations, schools and college campuses, we are talking honestly and frankly to each other about mental health. At a recent forum for Iowa gubernatorial candidates, ALL the candidates agreed that fixing Iowa’s mental health system must be a priority.

We agree. But simply saying mental health is a priority is not enough. Because at this moment, our state is at a crossroads – the choices are to continue talking or start taking action. We choose action.

Tell Governor Reynolds and Iowa legislators that it’s time to pass significant, long-term mental health care policy legislation this session that supports a comprehensive, statewide mental health system serving all levels of care by including:

Community-based care as well as intensive residential services

An effective statewide referral system

Expanded use of telehealth

Improved funding

Please join others across the state advocating for mental health improvement.

Mike Riege, Administrator,

Virginia Gay Hospital and Clinics

Mike Riege, Virginia Gay Hospital Administrator