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Bridging the Mental Health Gap

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) In Cedar Rapids, the Linn County League of Women Voters gathered mental healthcare experts to discuss the states mental health facilities. One of the topics they covered was the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, Iowa that the Governor closed before a District Court Judge ordered it reopened.

Mental healthcare experts say for some kids, life is a great challenge.

"The clinical profile of these kids are what we would call some of the toughest in the system, said the Executive Director of Tanager Place Okpara Rice.

And its not always easy to help them. Just to lend a hand to kids like the ones at the Iowa Juvenile Home, you need a broad array of supports and services, said Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston. So many of the young women who have come to Toledo, in essence I believe that the system has, in many ways, failed them."

Thats because long before troubled youth, many of whom might have mental health issues, get to places like juvenile homes, physicians say they should have received more care.

"We have to go back and look at our entire system and see how we can strengthen it to help kids along their journey so they don't even need that level of care later on, said Rice.

The main issue is that financial restrictions almost always mean very limited resources.

"We do not have enough service providers, particularly psychiatrists. And when you focus on child psychiatrists, that pool gets even smaller, said Langston.

That means that all individuals, but especially children, with mental health issues can struggle their whole life. Bridging that gap isnt easy.

"We need to find ways to get partnerships with our mental health community and our schools to see that these issues are addressed earlier, said District 66 Representative Art Staed.

"There are many different areas of a child's life that in order for them to be successful, they need to be fulfilled and have their needs met in these different areas, said Cedar Rapids Resident Leland Freie.

The experts say the first step is getting people, and their legislators, in a room, learning more and asking questions.

"Advocate for what you know is the right thing. If this is an important issue to you, then speak out. Your voice is powerful, it does make a difference, said Rice.

For some, that difference could be life or death.

The experts say many people with mental health issues end up in prison if not properly treated. They say nearly half of the prison population has some sort of mental health condition that is untreated.
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