Gov. Kim Reynolds spoke to Johnson County Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass following a tour and discussion of funding needs during the opening of Johnson County’s GuideLink Center on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

By David Leshtz, Iowa City

COVID, the derecho, and financial stress continue to take a heavy toll on Iowans’ well-being. Governor Reynolds and other state officials have said that mental health services are needed more than ever, whether it be affordable and accessible counseling, psychiatric beds, or suicide prevention.

There is a new, cost-efficient, and easily available service in Iowa. 988 is a three-digit phone number that anyone can call or text to reach a trained counselor who will provide immediate support and referral to additional mental health services. 988 has only been in operation since July but has already helped thousands of youth and adults in rural as well as urban areas.

Iowa allocated roughly $2.8 million for 988’s first year. The administrator of the national suicide prevention lifelines projected a need of $3.2 million for the first year, with crisis calls increasing rapidly as people become more aware of 988. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is planning a national media campaign, which is sure to increase the volume of 988 contacts. Kansas allocated $10 million for its first year of 988.

988 creates immediate access to mental health support and reduces barriers to services statewide. To protect the health and safety of Iowans, it must have sustainable long-term state funding. It’s time for our elected officials and department heads to act. Ask them — and candidates for state office — to allocate long-term funding for 988, and make mental health a key factor when you vote.

This letter was originally published in Little Village issue 312.