Mr Branstad, you simply cannot close the last remaining mental hospitals in the state of IA without a clear plan of action to open a new facility for these patients to be cared for. We need more options for those struggling with mental illness, not less.
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One in four Americans battle mental illness in this country. Based on the 2014 consensus of approximately 3.1 MILLION people living in the state of Iowa alone, conceivably 775,000 residents deal with some form of mental illness or another. A small fraction of those are battling severe mental illness who require inpatient care from the same institutions you are not opposed to closing. These patients need this care in an effort to hopefully transition back to the general population and become a productive member of society again.
Some people who suffer from severe forms of Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, and PTSD among other disorders need inpatient care to be rehabilitated, or simply have a safe place to call home until they can become stable. As someone who has battled Bipolar Disorder for over 20 years, I can tell you that being a patient at a mental health facility here in Iowa for six months saved my life and I am not alone. These facilities have saved numerous lives. What will the domino effect be should you close these facilities?
Some will become homeless, some will become incarcerated, while sadly, some will take their own life and possibly the lives of others during a psychotic break. Not all, but most of these scenarios can be prevented with care at facilities like the one in Independence. Most mental health diagnoses are treatable, but if you pull the plug on the mental hospitals that are in place to help these people become stable, you are personally turning your back on your own people in this state, including the same ones who voted for you this past election.
How many more people have to attempt or commit suicide in this country before our government leaders wake up and realize that affordable and effective mental health care is severely lacking in America? That mental health is a serious problem that needs to be addressed in the same fashion that cancer is? The suicide rate for the residents of the state of Iowa was the highest it had been in over 20 years in 2013 with 445 confirmed cases of suicide. Those numbers don't include the thousands who attempted and thankfully didn't succeed; not to mention unconfirmed cause of death cases and one-vehicle accidents that claimed someone's life. Closing facilities like this will likely only increase the suicide rate.
Should you ignore this plea and the plea of thousands of others just like me and proceed with the closure of those facilities, I would request that you personally drive to both locations and inform the family members of the residents that their loved one will need to be transferred elsewhere. That their child, spouse, mother, father, friend will be transferred to another facility out of state, or returned to the streets from which they came. I want you to watch the heartache and pain in their eyes as they sob uncontrollably; uncertain of what lies ahead for the ones they care about. I want you to think about the potential phone calls that will be made to family members following their loved one committing suicide from lack of adequate care available in this state.
In closing, as our governor you should be helping the residents of your state, regardless of their mental or physical health care needs. I am lucky and blessed that I received the necessary help when I did at a mental health facility here in Iowa before it closed. Had that not been available to me, I cannot definitively say that I would be alive to write this petition today. I beg you to reconsider your words and instead take a stand. Stand with those who are struggling. Show compassion for those who cannot or who are afraid to speak for themselves due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. If you do this and spearhead efforts to improve mental health care in this state, you will save hundreds if not thousands of lives. Thank you.
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