DES MOINES, Iowa -- Doctors and mental health advocates hope a new psychiatry residency program will help expand access to mental health providers across Iowa.
Mercy Hospital in Des Moines had a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday to commemorate the first year of its new psychiatric clinic that will train four residents each year. This is one of two new programs of its kind in the state---the other is a partnership between Unity Point and Broadlawns.
Until now, University of Iowa was the only place in the state with a psychiatry residency program.
“For years, we've tried to come up with solutions to the severe shortage of mental health providers in Iowa. The only way we thought we could really advocate and fix that problem was to produce our own psychiatrists within the state," said Dr. Sasha Khosarvi, director of the new resident program.
He said they received 1,000 applications for just four resident positions in the program.
He and others hope that the new training opportunity will have generational effects on mental health care in Iowa.
“Hopefully [the program] will keep a lot of those folks practicing in our state and contributing to a state that’s really starved for mental health providers," Khosarvi said, noting that statistics show that physicians have a tendency to stay in the area where they completed their residencies.
The state agreed to invest $4 million in the two new programs back in 2016 under then-Gov. Terry Branstad's administration. The clinics officially opened their doors July 1, on the heels of an expansive mental health reform bill Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law this spring. The new law expands critical mental health services and facilities.
“Through this program you’re going to help Iowans have access to even more behavioral health providers in the future, so thank you for the significant role you’re playing as we develop a more complete mental health system in Iowa," Reynolds said in her remarks at the ceremony.