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A Closer Look: Kevin Carroll

Executive director of behavioral health services, Iowa Health - Des Moines


Kevin Carroll joined Iowa Health – Des Moines on April 30 as executive director of behavioral health. He is responsible for all aspects of Iowa Health’s inpatient and outpatient behavioral health programs, including 56 inpatient beds and the Powell Chemical Dependency Center at Iowa Lutheran Hospital and an outpatient psychiatry clinic in West Des Moines. Since moving back to Iowa eight years ago, he has worked as a counselor at Orchard Place and most recently worked at Broadlawns Medical Center, where he was manager of outpatient mental health and social services. Carroll recently completed the first year of a four-year term on the West Des Moines School Board and coaches his son’s soccer team.

How did you decide on a career in counseling?

I had such a positive experience in high school and college and activities, I thought: “How can I stay on college campuses? It’s such a fun developmental age.” The dean of students at Central College said there are people who go on to get their master’s degrees in college student personnel or administration. So I applied to a number of programs across the country and ended up going to University of Maryland.

You and your wife went through school together?

She and I met in eighth grade; we were friends through high school. We both selected Central College independently; we were just friends at that point. We got involved in college, got married the summer after graduation. When I went to school full time (in Maryland), she ended up getting a full-time teaching position. Then it was my turn to work … we ended up at the University of New Hampshire for five years. I was a residence hall director, so my wife and I and then with kids lived in the residence halls, which was a lot of fun.

What led you to come back to Iowa?

My wife had finished her master’s and I had finished my second. We had lived a total of four years in college as students and six years employed and living in residence halls. At age 30 we said, we’ve spent 10 years living in residence halls and eating residence hall food. That was very nice in some ways, but in other ways we were ready for the next step of our lives.

How do you feel about your new position?

I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to advance my skills and serve our community. One of the things I realize after growing up here and working here is that I care quite a bit about Des Moines and the Central Iowa community and its members. When you work directly as a clinician, you affect those individuals and families directly. The opportunity that leadership provides is that you get to influence and impact hundreds and thousands of lives over time, so that was really appealing to me.

Why did you run for the West Des Moines School Board?

I have two kids, one who’s in middle school and one that’s going into fourth grade. And my wife’s a teacher at the ninth-grade building, Southwoods. I thought, they’re all involved in West Des Moines schools; I should be too. I put my name on the ballot and did a little campaigning. That was all new to me. I’ve learned a lot.

What challenges does behavioral health have serving the community?

The challenges of behavioral health are largely also the challenges of health care in general in 2012. How can we deliver better patient care at the same or lower cost? The same economics that impact the rest of health care also impact us. Specifically to behavioral health, one overarching theme is the difference related to the stigma that still exists with mental health and substance abuse. … That’s a tremendous challenge, both in terms of people being comfortable saying they have these issues, and in seeking treatment.

Are there significant changes ahead for your organization?

One, the Legislature passed the mental health redesign bill this past session. I think it’s still yet to be seen how that’s going to impact care for patients. Hopefully, it will provide more access, a more standardized continuum of care, especially for more rural counties in Iowa. … For us internally, it also means coordinating treatment of behavioral health issues with other health issues … to provide a real exceptional health-care experience overall.

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