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URBANDALE, Iowa – Gov. Kim Reynolds, during a press conference at the Iowa Behavioral Health Association, announced she was directing $50 million in CARES Act funding to Iowa’s mental health systems.

“As we’ve dealt with the Coronavirus in this pandemic, COVID-19 has been a challenging time for all of us,” Reynolds said. “And it’s underscored the importance of our mental health infrastructure and access.”

She noted how COVID-19 impacted health-care front-line workers, families, children, small business owners, and recent graduates.

“With these kinds of disruptions in our lives and livelihoods. It’s important for Iowans to be mindful of their mental health and to know that there’s a place to go if they need help. The last several months also have made it more tempting to turn to behaviors that might distract us from the anxiety and the stressors from online gambling to increased substance abuse or alcohol consumption. Again, it’s critical there’s a place to turn when we need help getting back to making healthy decisions for ourselves and our families,” Reynolds said.

She is directing $30 million for the mental health regions, $10 million to mental health providers, and $10 million to substance abuse providers. This new money is in addition to relief funds that the federal government has allocated for the Cherokee and Independence Mental Health Institutes and other hospitals and private practitioners. FEMA also provided $1 million in aid for the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide crisis counseling to those impacted by COVID-19.

“We take obstacles, and we turn them into opportunities. We don’t want to just weather the storm of COVID-19. We want to help our system innovate and adapt to the challenges the future holds,” Reynolds said.

“We are making meaningful investments into Iowa’s mental health services to help vulnerable Iowans and their families,” she added. “Today’s investment is not only about adapting to the challenges we face today, but sustaining a compassionate and coordinated system for the future.”

Reynolds was joined by Flora A. Schmidt, the Executive Director for the Iowa Behavioral Health Association, Andrew Allen, President & CEO of Youth and Shelter Services, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, and Kelly Garcia, Director of the Iowa Department of Human Services.

Garcia said the state had made progress on its mental health delivery system before COVID-19.

“COVID has changed so much of our landscape, and we must continue to move forward,” she said.

Due to expanding telehealth, Garcia noted that more patients had kept their appointments at higher rates than before. She said that has been one of the bright spots of the pandemic.

Allen, who serves on the state’s children’s mental health system board, noted that mental health and substance abuse issues do not discriminate.

“The National Institute of Mental Health shows 49.5 percent of adolescents – one out of two – will have a mental health illness. One in six of us will have a substance use disorder, and 90 percent of those will start before their 18th birthday. So look around, all of us will be impacted, if not directly by one degree of separation,” he said.

Allen said the mental health stigma still exists.

“People are afraid to talk about their struggles and that of their family. I see it in my own community when kids start secluding themselves and not talking or acting out, and the police get called. Oftentimes, instead of asking for help, families are embarrassed, they feel judged, and they don’t seek treatment instead of suffering alone,” he said.

“On average, the delay between the onset of symptoms of mental health and someone seeking treatment is 11 years living with a diagnosable and treatable illness before even seeking treatment. And today, because of the pandemic and isolation, the trauma that kids are facing is increasing. And for many, it’s happening behind closed doors. The uncertainty that families are experiencing is creating increased levels of stress and anxiety and depression,” Allen added.

He stated that the additional funding could not come at a more critical time.

Listen to the press conference below:

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