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Mental health providers in flood-stricken rural Iowa deluged by high demand


Iowa does not have enough psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or other mental health care providers to handle an increasing need to care for farmers dealing with relentless flooding this year, several mental health experts that IowaWatch interviewed warned.

Many health care specialists don’t want to work in small, rural areas for reasons ranging from a lack of local resources to seeing few options for personal growth that comes from cultural events or entertainment, the interviews revealed.

The result is that people who need mental health care immediately have a difficult time getting it, a problem in the parts of rural Iowa hit this year by devastating flooding.

“We turn people away every day because we don’t have available appointment slots. We do a lot of referring to other agencies,” said Susan Ecker, director of Waubonsie Mental Health Center, which has locations in Fremont, Page and Montgomery counties in southwestern Iowa, all hit hard by the flooding.

“There is no competition between service agencies in our community because all of us combined cannot handle the volume of people that are seeking service,” Ecker said. 

Fifty of the 59 Iowa counties designated as disaster areas because of flooding this year also have been designated by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration as having inadequate mental health care. In all, 86 of Iowa’s 99 counties are designated mental health professional shortage areas because they do not have an adequate number of providers for the number of people living in those counties. 

To access the full story, click here.

This story was produced by the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism-
IowaWatch.org, a nonprofit, online news website that collaborates with Iowa news organizations to produce explanatory and investigative reporting. 

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