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Foundation commits $50,000 for mental health project at DMU


Des Moines University plans to launch a pilot program next summer that officials say provides a groundbreaking approach to addressing Iowa’s critical shortage of mental health professionals. 

The Mid-Iowa Health Foundation announced Thursday a $50,000 commitment to fund the program, which is designed to transform how psychiatric care is delivered by new doctors who plan to practice in Iowa. DMU is working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to bring its provider education program to its third-year osteopathic medical students. 

Used at the Menninger Clinic, a leading psychiatric hospital in Houston, the program entails 15 hours of lecture and experiential learning. It is designed to transform the ways psychiatric care is delivered by increasing students’ comfort level and compassion in working with individuals with mental illness, fostering clinical empathy for patients and their families, and countering stigmas.

NAMI will provide program facilitators, materials and certification; DMU will provide the physicians, space and research in the program implementation and share the research findings with other states and medical institutions.

Funding from the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation will help to launch a pilot in June of 2018, which will engage 40 to 50 DMU students who have indicated a preference for serving in Iowa.

“We are pleased to support this critical work for our community and state and believe this is an essential and meaningful step to providing responsive and informed mental health care and reducing stigma,” said Suzanne Mineck, president of the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. “This aligns with our system-level change work around the most critical care needs.”

Iowa ranks 48th in the nation in the number of psychiatrists per capita. Of the 99 counties, 89 are designated as “health professional shortage areas.” For Iowans in need of inpatient psychiatric care, the situation is even worse. There were just two state psychiatric beds per 100,000 residents in 2016, placing Iowa last in the country. 

“We are all so appreciative of this support, which allows us to move forward with the pilot,” said DMU President Angela Walker Franklin. “Mid-Iowa Health Foundation shows its commitment to transformative and innovative approaches to healthcare and workforce issues with this award.”

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