#thanksTerry – Iowa’s governor’s push to privatize Title XIX and gut the already rickety mental health system will make 2017 the year mental health gets real in Iowa

The reality of mental health treatment – and the biggest challenge our prisons, law enforcement, and health care providers face today – is keeping patients safe in state or private mental health beds while implementing proper medication regimes, initiating proper therapy, providing community support, and developing a plan for ongoing therapy.

Estherville, Iowa Police Chief Brent Shatto told Congressman Steve King of Iowa’s fourth district that mental health was one of the greatest challenges to law enforcement in the town. Officers sometimes wait for hours in the ER with individuals in mental health crisis as hospital staff work to place them in one of only 64 state psychiatry beds. But wait. Current Department of Corrections inmates already occupy two-thirds of those beds, leaving only 24 public and just over 700 private beds for approximately 123,000 Iowans living with a major mental illness.

Mental health care has always been the ghetto of health care; that fact is not unique to Iowa. Now as people who were recently living in a residential facility return prematurely to the community, they will require all the support available, and even that won’t be sufficient to handle their needs.

The community-based supports that struggled to meet the needs of people living in the community, who were relatively stable on medications, therapy, and alternative treatments, will be unable to get help when they need it.

Those yet to be diagnosed, who are suffering from their symptoms, will be told it could be six months, or even longer, before they can see a professional.

Whose lives will be lost in this denial of critical care? How many will lose the lives, careers, relationships they had because they were able to manage symptoms with the help of their doctors and therapists, but now are turned away from treatment because their care team is overburdened?

It’s already broken, and now the pieces are spilling out all over in the form of more children acting out in class, more parents neglecting their children, more reports of suicide and substance use, more arrests, more acting out in pain.

In Estherville, a task force of several dozen is looking at the problem of children younger than 13, who cannot be helped in the juvenile justice system, but who have severe issues of attacking teachers and other students, acting out of what appears to be trauma of unknown origin, or which could well be organic, physical brain illness which, if it was treated like any other illness, could be improved greatly with the treatments now available.

Where will these children be in a few years if there is no help for them now?

I admit I had looked at other things like hunger, homelessness, medical cannabis for the past while, which reduced my capacity for mental health advocacy. As an adoptee, I have had four parents. Three have died due in whole or in part to mental illness: my birth father due to schizophrenia, my mother who raised me from under-treated depression; she had a fatal heart condition, but chose her day, and my father who raised me from seasonal affective disorder, self-medicated, which developed into closet alcoholism.

While I’m part of a posse of badass advocates, including Andy Behrman, author of “Electroboy: A Memoir,” and single dad of two extraordinary tweens; Speaker/Advocate Gabe Howard, Laurel Roth Patton, John McManamy, who started McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web before mental health websites were a thing, and who has authored a number of books between playing the digideroo, and others too numerous to list here, the death of Carrie Fisher has spurred me to do what I have talked about for years: develop media products of investigative and solutions journalism to at least suggest a future for Iowa and beyond.

Save 3 lives in one day — donate blood September 22!

Voluntary Action Center will host a community blood drive in partnership with the American Red Cross on September 22 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Spirit Lake Campus of Iowa Lakes Community College.

For more information, or to make an appointment to donate, contact Amy Peterson at 712-336-4444 or sign up online at redcrossblood.org.

“Hosting a blood drive coincides with Voluntary Action Center’s core values of giving back to the community,” said Amy Peterson, Executive Director.

Blood is routinely transfused to patients with cancer and other diseases, premature babies, organ transplant recipients, and trauma victims, according to the Red Cross.

The brief time it takes to donate can mean a lifetime to a patient with a serious medical condition. We urge eligible donors to join us in the selfless act of giving blood. Donors of all types are needed.

“This is one of our most impactful volunteer opportunities,” Peterson said. “Here, you can save three lives.” Peterson routinely gives double red cells and proudly carries her donor card.

According to the World Health Organization:
The need for blood is great. Every day in the U.S., approximately 41,000 units of blood are required in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities for patients with cancer and other diseases, for organ transplant recipients, and to help save the lives of accident/trauma victims. In 2011, nearly 21 million blood components were transfused. With an aging population and advances in medical treatments and procedures requiring blood transfusions, there is always a need for blood and blood components.

Although an estimated 38 percent of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time, less than 10 percent do so annually.

Governor and Lt. Gov. celebrate 4th year of STEM initiative.

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Arnolds Park: Iowa’s Coney Island for 125 Years and Counting

A century plus a quarter

Arnolds Park, located on West Lake Okoboji in the northwest corner of Iowa, kicked off its 125th summer, opening Friday, May 16 for regional senior class trips, DARE parties, and the public.

The roots of Arnolds Park go back to the earliest years of Civil War reconstruction, when Wesley Arnold claimed the land where the park now sits. He built his home and opened the lakefront for fishing and tent camping parties.

A pavilion, boathouse, and waterslide follow, and after Wesley died, his daughters expanded on the amusement park concept with the first wooden roller coaster built west of the Mississippi River.

For the ensuing six decades, the Pavilion was host to up and coming bands from the ragtime to swing to rock and roll eras.

A 2011 Gallup Poll showed consumer spending in the $15 billion amusement park industry was on an upward trend. This is reflected at Arnolds Park, where officials throughout the Okoboji lakes tourism industry are bracing for a record year.

In 1965, drunk college students started a riot at Arnolds Park. Twenty-five were arrested following looting, vandalism, and shooting firecrackers in a barrel. When the national guard arrived, the situation was under control. This marked the increase of Okoboji’s reputation as a drunk fest for teens and twenty-and-thirty somethings, and no longer a haven for families.

Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Arnolds Park fell out of favor as the lake cruise steamboats left, and the simplicity of a lakefront vacation was rejected in favor of ocean cruises, Disney, and other postmodern thrills.

With the increase in working mothers, the need of the well-to-do for  vacation homes to send the family to for summer fun, with father joining on the weekends, declined.

At the century mark of Arnolds Park’s founding, a group of investors purchased the park, then philanthropist and founder of Long Lines Wireless, the regional AT&T hub, Chuck Long, purchased and refurbished the park.

Longer working hours, less vacation time, and a still sluggish economic situation for many Americans means stay-cations and vacations closer to home are the norm. Arnolds Park remains an option for upper Midwesterners seeking a shorter drive.


Shut down the reservations, end social deprivation to make native life better, Jeremiah says

Jeremiah Whitehall is convinced that reservations for natives never worked, and conditions there will only get worse.

According to statistics from Pine Ridge Reservation, where Jeremiah and Rico live, the home of the Oglala Sioux was the poorest county in the nation from 1980 to 2000, at which point it became the third poorest.

This is not because conditions at Pine Ridge became better, but because conditions at Rosebud and another reservation grew worse.

Unemployment is more common than employment, and as the reservations are at the mercy of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there is little the community can do to better itself. Hence, within the middle of the United States is something like a yet-to-develop nation where overcrowded homes often do not have running water or power.

Few Americans have seen the real life of a native reservation, and it is this “social deprivation,” Jeremiah, a student of speech and English, that drives the poverty.

It was the federal government that solved the native problem by creating reservations on some  of the nation’s worst land. Similarly to what we can possibly do now about the enslavement of black people 150 years ago and more, the problem of the native tribes faces us now.

Jeremiah hopes native/white conflict does not erupt in our century the way it has between blacks and whites living in the same communities.

Fanny Freeze on Fatbikes

2015-01-24 15.10.40 2015-01-24 15.10.46 2015-01-24 15.10.55 2015-01-24 15.17.13 2015-01-24 15.35.31 2015-01-24 15.35.49The view outside the Dickinson County Nature Center in Okoboji, Iowa, is one of snow covered marsh and grassland between the nature center and the gracious homes on the other side. In that terrain, there is a 1 kilometer lap that sends riders through snow, sand, rocks and grass, and up and down hills.

“Last year there were a lot more hills,” said Matt Matthiesen of West O Beer Co., the official beer sponsor of the Frozen Fanny Fat Bike Challenge. Cyclists and spectators were well supplied with beer, hot cocoa, hot cider and pulled pork barbecue sandwiches as the wind whipped through the frozen grasslands.

Thirty-eight participants rode their fat bikes (with tire widths of at least 2.5 inches, most 3 inches or a bit more) through the course, some after a morning spent on the 16 mile Freeze Your Fanny on the roads and streets of Okoboji.

“I think it’s true that you first freeze the fanny in the morning, then your pre-frozen fanny has a better time on the rough riding afternoon event,” according to Milford attorney Barry Sackett, who took on both bike-freeze events for the fifth time this year. More often a marathon runner, Sackett, 45, challenges himself every year he’s in town for the winter games.

The 34th Annual Okoboji Winter Games began as a bare-bones broom ball tournament on East Lake Okoboji, fueled by abundant beer and hot toddies. Over the years it has grown to include eight “cheerleaders” chosen from the chambers of commerce and commercial clubs of the beach towns that make up Okoboji. Businesses and organizations sponsor everything from cribbage tournaments to mass games of bingo, broomball, and the polar plunge into the lake with EMTs standing by and a warming house right on the ice.

This year’s festivities were altered slightly in location as warm January temperatures after an initial arctic blast made the ice unstable.

Cyclists (all male this year, though women have participated int the past) navigated the snow and rocks of the Frozen Fanny course with aplomb. Oohs rang up from the sparse crowd of spectators upon the occasional spillout. The riders continued the course for 90 minutes or as long as they could hold out. The rider with the most laps in that time, this year Sam Kendall of Jackson, Minnesota, is declared the champion.

Kendall rode in the 31-40 age category and this is his second win in the last decade. “Endurance is the key,” Kendall said. “When you don’t think you can pedal any more, you just do. I don’t have a secret, or really any particular athletic prowess other than that.”

Do you want to build a snowman? Okoboji Winter Games roll into 35th year January 23-25.

The Okoboji region of northwest Iowa shivers into such frigid temperatures in January, many consider hibernating throughout the winter. Isolation doesn’t warm the soul, however. For this reason, the University of Okoboji, a charitable group behind the fictional college of recreation, created the Winter Games.

“When I came to the 2012 Winter Games, I thought Okoboji was a frozen hellhole,” Taylor Wetzel of Pittsburgh admitted of her first visit to the weekend of events.

The moody winter weather in 2015 has caused variable ice conditions. Traditionally the broom ball tournament, beanbag tournament and snow softball tournament are all held on the icy surface of East Lake Okoboji. This year, however, chair Alison Schmitz says the uncertain ice conditions caused by December and January temperatures varying from 60 degrees to 28 below zero create a hazard. “The winter games are just that — games,” Schmitz said. “Safety is of utmost importance, always.”

The flag football tournament will still be held at the property of Parks Marina, but has also been moved off the ice in favor of playing in the Parks Marina outdoor mezzanine, which will be stocked with new snow.

The Okoboji police department also issues a reminder that Winter Games athletes and spectators should keep all vehicles off the ice around the State Pier as this is where the Polar Bear Plunge will take place at 3 pm Saturday, January 24 in Arnolds Park.


courtesy of University of Okoboji
courtesy of University of Okoboji