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Release: July 6, 2001

UI psychiatrist appointed as mental health director of Iowa Department of Corrections

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa Health Care psychiatrist has been appointed as mental health director of the Iowa Department of Corrections (DOC).

Michael Flaum, M.D., UI associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Iowa Consortium for Mental Health housed at the UI, assumed the new responsibilities July 1. His appointment creates both a new position within the DOC and a new relationship between the DOC and UI Health Care.

Previously there was no position of mental health director within the DOC. The former DOC medical director, Paul Loeffelholz, M.D., was a psychiatrist who handled mental health services as part of his overall responsibilities. When the medical director position became vacant last year upon Loeffelholz's retirement, the position was split into a medical directorship and a mental health directorship.

Flaum will retain his full academic appointment at the UI, where he has been a faculty member since 1988. For the current fiscal year, his time and effort will be split between the DOC and UI Health Care, including his directorship of the Iowa Consortium for Mental Health.

As DOC mental health director, Flaum will coordinate and oversee all mental health services within prisons statewide. The directorship includes all psychiatric services, psychopharmacological services and psychological services.

Psychologists and psychiatrists at each of the state's nine prisons will be under the authority of the mental health director's office. Flaum will report directly to W. L. "Kip" Kautzky, director of the Iowa Department of Corrections, and will work with DOC contract physicians and the director of nursing to maintain and improve clinical care. Flaum also will work with the DOC director of pharmacy services in carrying out the overall health services mission for the prison system.

As director of the Iowa Consortium for Mental Health, Flaum worked with the DOC over the past year to develop and coordinate research projects on providing mental health services within Iowa prisons.

"Following national trends, Iowa has seen an increase in its incarceration rate with a doubling of the prison population within the past decade," Flaum said.

That increase, and the effects of mental health de-institutionalization that began in the 1960s, has escalated the need for mental health care among prisoners.

"The number of inmates with mental health issues within Iowa's prisons has increased dramatically within the past decade," Flaum said. "It's important that we continue to describe and deal with mental health issues in our prison system."

In fiscal year 1990, Iowa prisons had nearly 500 psychiatric care contacts among its 4,000 prisoners. However, by fiscal year 2000, there were 6,500 visits within a prison population that had doubled to 8,000 individuals.

At the same time, the number of psychiatrists and other professionals working in mental health services for the prison system has not increased.

The state's correctional psychiatric services are based at the Oakdale Correction Facility, where telemedicine technology helps professionals meet the mental health needs of prisoners across the state. More than half of all consults in fiscal year 2000 were made by telemedicine.

"The telemedicine facility at the Oakdale facility is booked five days a week," Flaum noted. "It's a tremendously important resource, especially given the geographic distribution of psychiatrists within the state."

Iowa has approximately eight psychiatrists per 100,000 individuals, as compared to the national average of 11 psychiatrists per 100,000 individuals. In addition, Iowa's psychiatrists are not evenly distributed across the state. For example, 52 of the state's 232 psychiatrists work in Johnson County.

"Many prisons, such as Clarinda Correctional Facility, Fort Dodge Correctional Facility and the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison are located in areas that don't have enough psychiatrists to provide the necessary care within the community, making it extremely difficult to attract and retain psychiatrists in those prisons," Flaum said.

Under Flaum's leadership, the UI will begin to involve more of its health care professionals -- faculty physicians, residents and medical students -- in mental health care for prisoners statewide. Flaum added that he eventually hopes to develop a post-residency fellowship program in correctional psychiatry.

"The overall goal of this new collaboration is to bring the rich array of clinical and academic resources within the UI to bear on the mental health needs in prisons across the state," Flaum said.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 5224-1178

CONTACTS: (media) Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660