Budget cuts affect mental health across state



Kim Hiltabidle

Student leaders from Iowa’s public universities gathered in Des Moines on Feb. 16 for the annual Board of Regent’s Day at the Capitol, and for some, mental health was the paramount issue.

Students had a chance to speak to the state legislature and members of governor’s office about fully funding the universities’ budget request for the upcoming school year.

Student Government President Dan Breitbarth, along with student presidents from the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa, agreed that mental health care was their number one concern when planning the budget request.

“A 2010 survey of students by the American College Health Association found that 45.6 percent of students surveyed reported feeling hopeless, and 30.7 percent reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function during the past 12 months,” according to the American Psychological Association.

For Student Government, the issue is a prime concern.

“We made it clear that we think mental health issues and improving counseling services is of utmost priority,” Breitbarth said.

Among the three universities, $8.2 million has been asked to be allocated to Iowa State, $7.7 million to Northern Iowa and $4.5 million to Iowa for a total increase of more than $20 million.

Currently, the mental health resources across Iowa’s public universities are suffering from underfunding, causing them to be inadequate to students.

Iowa State is requesting the additional funding to cover the rapidly increasing population of the student body.

The total enrollment at Iowa State has increased by 1,269 in the last year alone, according to the Office of the Registrar.

The increase in enrollment has become a significant factor to the decline in mental health care resources on campus.

The wait time for a student to meet with a mental health staff member at Iowa State is about 30 days, Breitbarth said. 

“Anything we can do to shrink that time frame would be great for the university,” he said. “Time doesn’t help in solving these problems.”

Breitbarth believes using the proposed funding to increase the number of mental health care staff members would help tremendously.

Dr. Carver Nebbe, psychiatrist at the Thielen Student Health Center, believes mental health issues place a serious strain on a student’s ability to succeed in the class room.

“Whether that be stress, depression, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety or other types of mental health issues,” Nebbe said. “Mental health issues have come front and center, the number one problem that impedes students’ ability to learn and develop academically.”