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Iowa mental health a struggle

Caseworkers grapple with increased community caseload, fewer options

March 14, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

At last Tuesday's Emmet County Board of Supervisors meeting, Judy Tangen, coordinator of disability services, was joined by Bob Lincoln, CEO, and Todd Rickert, Regional Coordinator for County Social Services.

Lifelong Links

Lincoln informed the board about the Lifelong Links Project. "This is like having a receptionist for agencies across the state," Lincoln said. Emmet County will be on the platform in approximately one month, and people who call in will be connected with the call centers around the state. Families of people who are elderly, have a mental illness, or children in need of services can make one call, and the call center will do an intake and connect them with an office that can help them.

Supervisor Jeff Quastad asked, "If I'm a person in need of help, how do I find the program?"

Lincoln said it was about social marketing and multiple exposures to signage and the logo so people become familiar.

Lincoln clarified that if people want to speak with Tangen at her office, they will be able to call the local number to speak with her. When Tangen is out of the office, and after hours, people who need help will still be able to talk to a real person and be connected for a next day call back or with crisis services if necessary, Lincoln said.

Peer Support

After the closing of two of Iowa's four mental health facilities, with the others likely not far behind, care for people with mental illness is going to peer support. Peer support involves people with lived experience with mental illness going through training to learn how they can best help others in crisis or with struggles with daily life in the community.

While state certification is not required, Iowa offers Peer Support and Family Support Specialist Training sessions in cooperation with the University of Iowa hospitals. The Iowa Board of Certification has two certifications: the Certified Mental Health Peer Support Specialist and Peer Recovery Specialist. This is a 40 hour program available at

According to the Iowa Peer Support training website, a peer support specialist is an individual who is personally living well in recovery from a serious mental illness. A Peer Support Specialist uses their recovery story to instill hope. They provide support to other peers and assist them in reaching and maintaining their personal recovery goals. In addition, a PSS can serve as an advocate, provide information, help access community resources, and model competency in recovery and wellness. Peer Support Specialists promote skills for improving mental and physical wellbeing and increasing resiliency. They promote self-determination and support peers in maintaining relationships and increasing a higher level of control and satisfaction over their lives.

Spring Peer Support training will be held June 5-9 at the Hampton In, Council Bluffs, Iowa. If you are not currently employed as a Peer or Family Peer Support Specialist (and will not have your costs paid by your employer) you may be eligible for a stipend that would reimburse a candidate for part of the training-related expenses. The candidate would pay the up front costs of meals, hotel and gas, and submit a form for reimbursement upon completion of the training. The stipend application is due two weeks before the training begins. Stipends must be applied for, processed and approved BEFORE the training. If you would like more information about applying for a stipend please email:



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