Asylums to Mental Health Institute Closures - Mental Illness in Iowa, Then and Now

Sep 8, 2015

When the closure of two of Iowa's four mental health institutes was announced earlier this year, there was huge backlash from the mental health community. But Dr. Michael Flaum, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, says he's not overly concerned. 

"I don't think we needed to have these big mental health institutes, but we do need a good workforce who can deliver mental health services that make sense in the current day. Those services can often be done and are probably best done in the community, often in people's homes. The idea of having to come to a hospital for what we make believe is an acute health problem, but is actually a chronic problem, is not good."

But this change is far from the first in the state's mental healthcare industry. From asylums in the 1950s, community mental health in the 70s, managed care in the 90s and the possibility of integrated care with the Affordable Care Act in this decade, mental health care has radically changed in the United States.

"We live in a fickle culture and we have no problem as a culture changing our views of things dramatically from one generation to the next, often from one decade to the next, without any problem. And that’s certainly the case in mental health."

In this Iowa Week edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Flaum about mental health care in the state. Steve Miller, who was diagnosed with a mental illness in the late 70s, also joins the conversation. Later in the hour, Dr. Nate Price, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa, and Jane Lovell, a polio survivor, join the conversation to discuss childhood infectious diseases.