When 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 health crisis.
  •  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.