New report puts Iowa last for mental health facilities

One year after the closing of two state hospitals, in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant, a new report shows that Iowa now trails the rest of the country in mental health facilities.

Iowa State Hospital for Insane -- photo by F. J. Bandholtz, 1908
Iowa State Hospital for Insane — photo by F. J. Bandholtz, 1908

A June 2016 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center, “Trends and Consequences of Eliminating State Psychiatric Beds,” ranks Iowa consistently last or in the bottom five of all U.S. states (including the District of Columbia) for mental health programs and services.

The report shows that in state hospital beds per capita, Iowa is ranked 51st in providing institutional care for those suffering from mental illness. Iowa has two beds per 100,000 people; the U.S. as a whole has almost 12 beds per 100,000 people, down from about 14 beds per 100,000 people in 2010.

Over the past 60 years, the number of hospital beds across the U.S. has shrunk from an all-time high of 560,000 in 1955 to 43,000 in 2010. The report attributes this drop to a broad range of issues, citing economic, medical, social and political factors.

Last year, state hospitals at Clarinda and Mount Pleasant were closed by Gov. Terry Branstad, even after lawmakers passed a compromise to reopen Mount Pleasant and extend funding for Clarinda.

Branstad defended the closures by contending the two hospitals were outdated and could be replaced by private agencies or the two remaining state hospitals in Independence and Cherokee.

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