Hundreds of Iowa kids wait for mental health care
Polk County is considering new ways to fill a mental health care shortage that has left hundreds of children waiting for services — many for more than a year.
Why it matters: Delays in assistance for children can prolong suffering, contribute to health issues and potentially hamper their long-term development.
Driving the news: Supervisors are considering a retention and recruitment program for mental health professionals who agree to work in the county for multiple years.
- Student loan repayment and other financial incentives are possible.
Zoom in: A group of eight mental health care providers in Polk County told supervisors in a meeting last month that they've been struggling to manage worker shortages and an increased need for services, particularly among children, during the pandemic.
- More than 550 kids seeking help from ChildServe in Johnston are on a waiting list for psychologists and 200 for mental health therapy, said Teri Wahlig, CEO of ChildServe.
- Dozens more wait for services at other ChildServe locations across the state, spokesperson Jordan Juhl told Axios.
- Children often wait more than a year for services, Juhl said.
Flashback: The state's mental health system was strained prior to the pandemic, according to health care advocates. Many providers were at times forced to turn away both children and adults for a variety of reasons, including capacity limits.
- Mobile crisis response teams and 24-hour hotlines were set up or expanded in the last three years following state and local efforts to alleviate the pressures.
The big picture: States across the country are struggling with mental health care worker shortages, with just under 30% of need being met nationally, according to an analysis published in September by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
- Other governments are also considering action, including California, where $37,000 in stipends could be made available to students pursuing a master’s degree in social work.
What's next: Polk County may use some of the $195 million it has allocated in federal pandemic assistance to offer incentives.
- A formal proposal that will include program guidelines is expected in coming weeks, Supervisors Chairperson Angela Connolly told Axios.
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