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The long wait to receive care for a mental health crisis should not be tolerated, and should be treated as quickly any other illness or emergency.

Those who suffer from a mental illness are not able to control their illness, anymore than someone can control when they have a heart attack.

When someone is taken to the hospital for a mental health crisis, they are assessed by a psychiatrist or a telepsych and then play the waiting game to see if they will be placed in a mental health facility in a timely manner.

Usually they are not. It’s not uncommon for a mental health patient to wait in a hospital for days prior to finding a bed in a mental health facility.

The lengthy wait for a mental health patient to receive adequate care may come from the lack of beds, or need for more psychiatrists.

Iowa is ranked 50th in the nation for state beds, and ranks 47th for overall number of beds, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In Iowa, there are only 720 mental health beds, a decrease from the 5,000 beds available in 1950.

The stigma surrounding the illness slows the progress to get those with a mental illness the adequate care they need.

Nearly 60 percent of American adults, and 50 percent of American youth, are reported to not have received the mental health services they needed in the previous year, according to NAMI.

Although we cannot physically see the illness, it looks like that person is choosing to think or act that way. The stigma would say that because they do not look sick, they are not really sick. They can just handle their “problem” on their own.

That stigma is wrong.

Even though you cannot see the illness, it’s still debilitating, and pushes that person into a situation they cannot control, or–in extreme cases–it pushes them to to hurt themselves or hurt others.

We need to take mental health seriously, and push for a better care system for mental illness, adequate care for mental health could become an expected standard.

An expected standard would draw more attention to the need for more psychiatrists and psychologists, and would begin to find ways to fund a better healthcare system that gives timely treatment to those suffering a mental health crisis.

Before the 2018 legislative session begins, state representatives need to place mental health care needs back to the forefront of Iowa’s health care discussion. Iowa should not be the last in the country for our treatment of Iowans with mental health problems.

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