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Release: Immediate

UI study finds discrepancy in funding for mental retardation vs. mental illness

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa psychiatrist reports that a survey of Iowa county boards of supervisors finds that there is a discrepancy in the funding for mental retardation versus the funding for mental illness.

Dr. Barbara Rohland, UI assistant professor of psychiatry, says that the state of Iowa mandates services for persons with mental retardation but not for those with mental illness. Between September and November of 1995, members of 98 of 99 Iowa county boards of supervisors were interviewed to determine attitudes and beliefs about funding services for persons with mental illness compared to those with mental retardation.

Nearly all respondents in the survey believed mental illness is treatable and those persons can become well, whereas people with mental retardation cannot.

"Often people are less willing to help persons with mental illness because they don't understand that serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, are often debilitating diseases that can cause people to be unable to take care of themselves for long periods of time, or even a lifetime," Rohland says.

Rohland says this study is important because it shows that Iowans fund different amounts of money and spend money for different types of services depending on whether the care is for persons with mental retardation or mental illness.

"This study suggests that people feel a different level of responsibility to provide for the basic needs of food and shelter for people with mental retardation versus mental illnesses," Rohland says.

Rohland hopes the study makes people examine their own beliefs about what they think is important in making decisions about the protection and needs of people with mental illnesses.

"I hope that when people think about these issues, they will work harder to develop ways in which the needs of persons with mental illness, in addition to the needs of people with mental retardation, are met," Rohland says.

The results of the study were published in the January 1998 issue of Psychiatric Services.