COVID-19 sent the world into a global public health emergency, fall-out from
the pandemic turned daily life upside down. Many people lost their jobs through
no fault of their own, creating financial hardship for families to put food on
the table and pay their bills. On top of that, school closures and isolation
protocols in nursing homes added more strain on families across Iowa.
COVID-19 cleaved an invisible, emotional toll
on families. Experts say it exacerbated behavioral health and addiction
disorders, saddling family dynamics with extra stress, increasing cases of
domestic violence, abuse and neglect. In rural and urban areas, across every
economic and social demographic, COVID-19 exposed gaps in accessibility for
mental health services.
Throughout the last year, I’ve heard from
Iowans across every generation about the pandemic’s toll on loved ones and
neighbors – social disconnections weighed heavily on children, parents, foster
youth, farmers, veterans and seniors. Front line workers put their health at
risk to serve their communities. Others lost their jobs or juggled working and
educating kids from home. Farmers euthanized livestock when COVID-19 disrupted
food supply chains. Coping with uncertainty became an emotional burden for a
growing number of people. Bereavement for lost loved ones and lingering side
effects for those who contracted the virus compounded mental stress.
As then-chairman of the Senate Finance
Committee, I helped steer five bipartisan pandemic relief packages through
Congress last year. In addition to providing direct financial lifelines to help
keep households, rural hospitals, small businesses and family farming
operations afloat, I worked to boost funding for mental health services,
including rural areas.
Specifically, I helped secure funding to expand
Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) in the CARES Act and the
pandemic relief package passed in December. These expansion grants increased
the number of CCBHCs across the country to 340 clinics in 40 states. That’s an
increase from 66 clinics in eight states in 2019. These community-based clinics
provide individual and family-centered services, including 24/7 crisis
intervention services for persons with serious mental illness, emotional
disturbances or substance abuse disorders.
Here in Iowa, Elevate received funding through
federal CCBHC expansion grants included in the CARES Act. Elevate was the only
one to receive funding to launch a brand new clinic, right here in Black Hawk
County. Since Elevate opened its doors on August 24, more than 600 Iowans have
received services through its programs. The expanded access to behavioral
health services is reinforced by the work Governor Reynolds and the Iowa
General Assembly have made to improve mental health wellness and access to
services in the state.
In the middle of a
pandemic, Elevate has provided critical behavioral health care services that
otherwise were limited or weren’t available to local residents. Check out how
Elevate has served our region since opening its doors:
- Its mobile crisis response was awarded the
contract for 12 counties in the Cedar Valley. For rural areas in particular,
this will help bridge gaps in behavioral health services. The team delivers
in-person interventions on-site when an individual is experiencing a mental
- Three embedded responders within the Waterloo
Police Department work alongside its officers who are trained in crisis
intervention training; social workers liaison with law enforcement to provide
appropriate supports to help deescalate volatile situations.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.
On behalf of all Iowans, I applaud the providers, counselors, responders and
volunteers who are committed to serving our neighbors in need. As Iowa’s senior
U.S. senator, I’ve worked to destigmatize negative connotations traditionally
associated with mental health illnesses. Specifically, I’ve worked to
strengthen mental health awareness and services for farmers, veterans, police
officers and foster youth so they can get the help they need when the weight of
the world is too heavy to shoulder alone. Throughout my public service helping
Iowans endure the emotional toll from natural disasters, farm crisis, military
service and now COVID-19, I’ve seen the resilience of neighbor helping
neighbor. Iowans thrive when we face challenges together.
For residents here in the Cedar Valley who feel
overwhelmed with stress, anxiety, depression or struggle with addiction, reach
out to Elevate’s counselors and mobile health teams available 24/7 by
contacting Your Life Iowa (855) 581-8111 or by text (855)895-8398.