Mental Health on the next TIJ

Mark Becker

The Mark Becker murder trial grabbed the attention of the nation as Becker was convicted of the murder of his former high school football coach Ed Thomas.

Becker’s defense was he was not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense said Becker was not of his right mind when he gunned down the coach in Parkersburg in June of 2009.

Becker has a history of mental illness. That was not questioned.

He was one of 13 million Americans affected by mental illness. That National Institute of Mental Health figures that 1 in 17 Americans are diagnosed with one of the diverse forms of mental illness.

So, we ask the questions, is there enough support in communities and from the state to help those living with chronic mental illness?

Iowa lawmakers set up a committee to look at recommending the closure of one of 4 state-run mental health institutions. We featured the facility in Independence the last time we looked at this topic. In the effort of full disclosure, my mother worked at the Independence facility for nearly 20 years. I’ve also down work for NAMI Scott County and was given award for my efforts.

Only a small number of people are cared for in the state mental health institutions. Most are treated in their own community where experts say in most cases, is better for the individual and more economical for counties and the state as well.

A case in point can be seen in Fort Dodge.
We’ve posted two videos involving a subject of producer Nancy Crowfoot’s interview for this story.
The first one can be seen here and involves a man’s diagnosis and the community mental health program that helps him stay a viable part of his community.

The second clip involves the same patient, this time he talks about his life with and on medication and what happens when he doesn’t take his meds. Also, he talks about the misconceptions about those with mental illness. Again, the clip can be viewed here.

The Iowa Senate Democrats have written a couple of posts on mental illness. You can
One post talks about strengthening mental health services for Iowa veterans.

Another post deals with families dealing with autism.
And the “Ed Thomas Bill” is moving forward through the Iowa Legislature as well. Here’s the details and background on this one.

Our studio discussion will include Dr. Michael Flaum, director of the Iowa Consortium for Mental Health, which was founded through a partnership between the Iowa Department of Human Services and the University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry. Irene Blair, is featured in our story, is director of Webster County Community Services. And Ro Foege, Chair of the Mental Health Institute Task Force that reviewed Iowa’s four state-run mental health institutions. He is also a former legislator from Mount Vernon, who worked on mental health legislation.

Ames hosts Mason City in CIML boys basketball. #40 is Harrison Barnes.

Also in this program we’ll be doing a feature on Ames High School basketball stand out Harrison Barnes. The senior will be playing his college ball at the University of North Carolina. I’ve gotten a chance to see Barnes play in person twice and both times he was impressive. This feature runs because next week the Little Cyclones begin play at the Iowa High School Boys Basketball Tournament. We talk with Barnes, coach Vance Downs and KASI radio sports director David Sprau in the piece. We’ll have video from the recent game against Mason City and last year’s substate game with Des Moines Roosevelt.

We go on the air at 8p Thursday. The Iowa Journal also airs Friday night at 630p on Iowa Public Television.

This will be our last Iowa Journal until Festival is complete. Then we begin our final run of original episodes of The Iowa Journal before our cancellation in June. Thank you for your support. If you any questions for our TIJ staff, send them to

We return with a look at innovating education. What exactly does technology in the classroom mean?


2 thoughts on “Mental Health on the next TIJ

  1. I too am a NAMI member, on the Commission of Persons with Disabilities and I am the chair of the Advisory Council of Iowa Protection and Advocacy.

    I have spoken to several people today who were happy Mark Becker is going to prison. When I asked why? One said he is crazy, didn’t you see him talking to himself in the trail. I changed the subject because they are too far gone in their misunderstanding of what a mental illness is. I didn’t have the time to even begin to correct their false notions.

    I am very bothered with his final verdict and what will happen to him in a prison. Medications are usually the cheapest ones which is why he looked so tired, blank, and talking to himself. Newer medications that work better cost too much. I, also, worry about if he will get his medication on a daily bases or at all. I know they are suppose to give them in the prisons, but so are they suppose to take care of mentally ill patients admitted to the psychiatric unit in hospitals.

    I worked in an area hospital in the mental health unit and what I saw made me sick. The neglect, the false documentation, the belittling to only mention a few.

    We need mental illness adequately funded through insurance companies and/or the policies they provide. Parity is passed at the federal level, but weak at the state level. Federal over-rules state, but I fear even if it starts to be covered then we are treating them with nurses who believe a mental illness is a weakness of character, that they don’t care, or that what they needs is some tough love and a good kick in the butt. And these are RN’s. I won’t even get into talking about some of the psychiatrist or therapist.

    We have to make mental illness a profit maker and then we have to get adequate nurses and psychiatrist who are properly trained. Too many come from past training that believed Freud had it all figured out. Wrong!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s