Foundation confronts mental health challenges in Allamakee County
Driving the back roads of Allamakee County, one sees idyllic pastures and rolling hills. But the scenery can mask tragedies as communities have struggled through multiple deaths in recent months, particularly from suicide. In these tight-knit rural towns, such losses are amplified.
“Because we’re a small community, we are more aware of it,” says Becky Decker. In early 2018, her family experienced the traumatic loss of brothers Matt and Thomas Howe, who both dealt with mental illness. To create awareness and provide more education about mental health issues, Becky and Matt’s wife, Shelly, started Mental Health Today (MHT), the Matt Howe Tribute Endowment, through the Allamakee County Community Foundation. Support groups, public speakers and work in local schools are driving the fund’s mission.
A grant from the Alice Hermeier Foundation, also held by the Community Foundation, recently awarded significant dollars to Veteran’s Memorial Hospital in Waukon to create a room where individuals in a mental health crisis can rest or talk with a counselor in lieu of spending time in the emergency room or the jail.
“Many community members have now received mental health first aid training,” says Betty Steege, foundation coordinator. Educators, law enforcement personnel and hospital employees have been trained, and the Community Foundation awarded a grant for additional training during its most recent grant cycle.
The Community Foundation’s advisory board has been intentional in its efforts to eliminate barriers to mental health. “Everyone was so stunned by the loss of Matt and his brother, and then there were young students lost at Kee High and MFL MarMac,” Betty explains. “That’s when the board really took hold and said, ‘We’ve got to shed a light on this.’ It arose straight out of passion and need.”
To make your impact on improving access to mental health resources in Allamakee County, contact Betty Steege, foundation coordinator.