Carol Logan spoke at the Southern Iowa Mental Health Center's 40th anniversary meeting Friday morning at Hotel Ottumwa. Logan gave attendees a rundown of the challenges they have faced in the past 40 years and the challenges they will face in the upcoming years. Logan did give a glimmer of hope by repeatidly complementing the quality of the Mental Health Center's staff. - Courier Photo by: Doug Sundin

OTTUMWA — For forty years, Wapello County leaders have kept one theme above others: True advocacy for the mentally ill.

That’s what Donna Crookham said about the people who formed the Wapello County Mental Health Committee in the fall of 1966.

Crookham, director of Southern Iowa Mental Health Center, chaired the 40th anniversary meeting Friday at Hotel Ottumwa and offered some historical tidbits taken from old minutes.

On Oct. 18, 1966, the mental health committee gathered for the meeting, which was chaired by Wapello County Supervisor Ralph Black. Twenty-one community members attended and outlined procedures for a county mental health center.

“It was fun to see [the health center] grow as I read through these,” Crookham said.

A month or so later, Judge Art McGiverin chaired the meeting and the committee changed the center’s name to Southern Iowa Mental Health Center.

“They did this because they thought we’d have more counties in the future,” Crookham said. “Thank goodness, Davis County joined in.”

Dick Carothers and Marian Schultz attended Friday’s meeting. Both were at the first business meeting years ago.

Crookham said Carothers was the first director.

“There are lots of stories about Dick. When his name is mentioned, people smile and pause for stories about his leadership,” she said.

Schultz and her husband, the late Richard Schultz, were active in Ottumwa’s community affairs for many years.

Carol Logan is the county’s Central Point of Coordination administrator. She directs funds for mental health developmental disabilities, mental retardation and brain-injury victims.

Logan was the keynote speaker for the anniversary meeting and she traced some of the history and changes in mental health care. Federal legislators established the National Institute of Mental Health in 1947.

“Still, in our area, mental health services had to take the back seat,” she said.

By the early 1960s, more help was available and Logan attributed that to former President John F. Kennedy, whose sister had mental problems.

Kennedy created legislation for building mental health centers, but there was no funding for staff. Two years later, former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation for mental health staffers, according to Logan.

“We were on the cutting edge then,” she added.

With the commitment of the community, things went well for several years. After another change in the White House, there was a “moratorium on mental health monies” in the early 1970s.

“We all cried a lot,” Carothers said from his table in the audience.

Former President Nixon restored some funding but his successor, former President Gerald Ford, vetoed it.

“Jimmy Carter didn’t have the money,” Logan said.

The local center started in the “basement of the hospital” and was across the hall from the morgue.

A few years later, the federal government decided mental health care was a problem the states should handle. Iowa created a “mental health block grant, Logan said.

In 1996 the “whole central point of coordination” process began at the impetus of Farm Bureau, which was tired of property taxes being raised for mental health care. As the CPC administrator, Logan has to decide what and how much care will be paid by the county.

“Where are we now? We have some block grant money, a declining population and more stipulations on the money,” Logan said.

She praised area legislators, such as Keith Kreiman and Mary Gaskill, for their help.

“The mental health center is doing well in spite of everything else. We have a quality caring staff and I’d put them up against any other community,” Logan said.

Ottumwa also has a “great drop-in center,” she added.

“People around the state know about the Promise Center in Ottumwa and they seek me out to tell me what a good program it is,” Logan said.

For information, contact the Southern Iowa Mental Health Center, 110 E. Main St., (641) 682-8772.

Cindy Toopes can be reached at (641) 683-5376 or via e-mail at cindy@ottumwacourier.com.


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