A handful of small Iowa towns with populations of less than 5,000 and not part of a larger metro area, bucked the trend and grew their populations in the 2020 census data just released. Growing small towns have one or more factors working in their favor, a summer-long IowaWatch investigation revealed for this special report.
We asked leaders in several rural Iowa towns for ways small Iowa towns could be vital. Jobs are a given, although those interviewed said having jobs, alone, does not guarantee vitality if other dynamics are not present in town.
This podcast of an original IowaWatch Connection radio report lets those in the Midwest U.S. trying to attract the necessary resources to meet mental health care demand in flood-stricken regions tell you about the problem. It includes one health care center that is trying to address the health care worker shortage head-on with a full-time recruiter.
Psychologist Lauren Welter says she faces an ethical issue with no easy answer on a regular basis: Should she take on more clients and provide less care to those she already sees, or turn away potential clients who have no alternatives?
FLOODED SENSES: MEETING MENTAL HEALTH CARE DEMAND IN DISASTER-STICKEN IOWA. Iowa does not have enough psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists or other mental health care providers to handle an increasing need to care for farmers dealing with relentless flooding this year, several mental health experts IowaWatch interviewed warned.
A stigma exists in agricultural communities when it comes to seeking mental healthcare. Moreover, Kyle Godwin, who recently researched patterns in farmer suicide for his University of Iowa School of Public Health master’s thesis, said his research data might suggest that doing anything to improve farmer mental health care will be difficult unless something is done to end this stigma. Paradoxically, Godwin’s research showed that in regions of Iowa that had a higher saturation of mental healthcare professionals, there were more farmer suicides, not less. “Of course, naturally, you want to think that the places with mental health centers are going to have lower suicide rates, and studies have found that with the general population, that a higher proportion of healthcare providers and mental healthcare providers have generally related to lower suicide rates,” Godwin, who grew up on an Iowa farm, said in an IowaWatch interview. “But then I think we have to remember that for when we’re talking about farmers… just in rural areas, in general, I should say, you know, stigma may play a more prominent role.”
Many mental healthcare providers IowaWatch spoke with pointed to stigma as a major roadblock when trying to treat farmers.
The effects of the government shutdown are starting to be felt in rural parts of the country. For example, implementing the new farm bill is on hold, Anna Johnson, Midwest policy manager for the Center for Rural Affairs and based in Iowa, said in a weekend IowaWatch Connection radio report now available in a podcast.
ByChristopher Walljasper/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
The USDA has announced plans for a pilot program to bring broadband internet to all of rural America. The plan, which Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue calls a “proof of concept,” will provide $600 million dollars in grants and loans to internet service providers to bring connection to parts of the country that are too remote, underpopulated or expensive to serve. “I absolutely, unequivocally believe that broadband connectivity is part of rural prosperity,” said Perdue in a press conference on Dec. 13. “We don’t want an urban rural divide in this country.