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Marshalltown community raises alarming concerns about the lack of mental health care

A recent Marshalltown Community Health Needs Assessment raised concerns about insufficient psychological health care in the UnityPoint Region.

The first of its kind survey was carried out in Grundy, Marshall and Tama counties, with the next one scheduled to be conducted after 2 years, in 2022.

Care taker of the internal and external relations of the UnityPoint region, Jim Waterbury, was appointed to manage and arrange the questionnaire session – which was initially released in 2019. He was also responsible for giving a detailed report of the survey.

502 inhabitants, along with 23 different agencies took part in the survey and according to Waterbury, the response was overwhelming, especially from the veterans.

He shared, “I was anticipating about 90 veterans and we got double what I thought we would get”.

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The survey highlighted that Iowa ranked at the 41st position out of 50 states in the country with respect to the number of psychiatrists and psychologists available per person. It also laid low on the list in terms of hospital beds in the psychological health department. Furthermore, the state was also among the states with the lowest number of psychologists who had their specialization in mental health of individuals up to the age of 19.

According to Waterbury, “There is a shortage of mental health care. There are not enough providers, which is the core of the issue — not enough providers and not enough beds so most people are treated on an outpatient basis.”

Due to the Iowa Veterans Home located in Marshalltown, many questions in the survey were specifically targeted towards the veteran community. Given the trauma the army goes through, especially the high percentage of people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mental health well-being is a major concern.

Waterbury talked about the issue, saying, “We feel they have needs and concerns that need to be addressed. Many veterans tend to have anxiety and PTSD and they were self-responding that they are dealing with that.”

A primary reason behind the alarming concern is the fewer number of professionals in the reason. Waterbury believes that increasing the psychiatrists per capita along with some endocrinologist and neurologists might tone down the problem – “That leaves the smaller population area at risk”.

Mental health wasn’t the only problem raised in the survey; obesity was one of the three major concerns that the respondents noted. Iowa ranked the 4th highest state in terms of body mass index, with almost 36% of its adult population being ‘clinically obese’ – their BMI exceeds 30.

Possible solutions include increasing water intake, managing stress through proper techniques and regular exercise.

UnityPoint Health recently made the decision to relocate all its facilities in Marshalltown to their southern branch with an expansion worth $38 million.

Waterbury shared, “We are hoping as a health care system to answer some of the needs people have and improve general health care and mental health care. I anticipate the results of the survey will drive UnityPoint decisions in Marshalltown, which is the way it should be. That is what the survey is for.”

About UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health is a network of hospitals, clinics and home care services in Iowa and Wisconsin. Started in 1993, the network is the state’s largest provider of hospital and related health services. It now encompasses eight metropolitan areas and is no more exclusive to Iowa.


Mariyam Tanveer

Recently graduated from LUMS, I now work as Researcher and a Freelance Writer on Ask Health News

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