Iowa doctor launches campaign to ‘replenish kids’ mental health’

Following a previous report in the Daily Iowan, Iowa Emergency Room doctor Jeffrey Brown felt inspired to begin his own campaign similar to that of the ‘Iowa Legend’ Carson King for child’s mental health.

Alexandra Skores, News Editor

When emergency room doctor Jeffrey Brown saw the work of “accidental fundraiser” Carson King and his impact for the children at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, Brown decided to use the momentum to create his own campaign — for all the kids.

Following a report in The Daily Iowan, Brown said he was inspired to begin a campaign similar to King’s. On Dec. 5, Brown posted a photo to his personal Facebook account in his emergency room scrubs holding a sign that read, “Kids’ mental health needs replenished” and his Venmo account name, with the hashtag “For ALL the Kids.”

Immediately, hundreds of strangers were sharing the post and commenting. Brown said he did not expect the amount of strangers to comment on his post and express their concerns surrounding child mental health.

Brown is a new ER doctor working in a community setting with the UnityPoint Hospitals. He currently has raised $2,901 as of Monday morning.

As previously reported in the DI, the number of child mental health diagnoses is rising, and children’s hospitals — such as the nationally recognized Stead Family Children’s Hospital — have felt the burden of the growing number of patients coming to emergency rooms with mental health concerns with no place to go. The current child-psych unit within the hospital has not seen an update since 1992.

Related: Mental-health resources scarce at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, researchers say

“[ER doctors] are trained to stabilize and treat, but we don’t have the knowledge to give them the level of care that they ultimately need,” Brown said. “It was really heartbreaking, and now out in practice to have to tell these patients that we don’t have the ability to help them in the ER and that the inpatient units that they need to go to are all full. It may be hours or days, or I have even seen patients in the ER for over a week, living in an ER room in one of their most critical moments of life not receiving care.”

Peggy Nopoulos, chair and DEO within the Department of Psychiatry within the Carver College of Medicine, said the Children’s Hospital is currently working with architects to improve the outdated child-psych unit and other areas within child’s mental health.

“It is moving forward,” Nopoulos said. “The whole unit will be renovated so that it is all private units and private bathrooms. Most importantly, we have a lot of extra space that children need. For instance, we have schools for children for when they are in these facilities.”

Nopoulos said the Children’s Hospital is currently laying out the plan for renovations and has been provided millions of dollars to make changes with funds from UI Health Care.

Brown said that, when compared to other medical problems and issues that children face, mental health is often left underfunded and underrepresented.

“My goal is to bring a sharper focus to the pediatric mental health focus in particular,” Brown said.

While Brown isn’t entirely sure on the plan for the funds, he intends on working with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to direct the money towards the benefit of child and adolescent psychiatry at the university.

Related: Carson King raises $2,959,336.30 for the kids

Ann Humbert, director of strategic communications with UI Health Care, said that the determination of the funding will come from Brown and his own intentions.

“When Mr. Brown is done with his fundraising, we will work with him to make sure the money is able to go where he would like it to go within children’s mental health,” she said.

While the campaign continues, King, who notoriously was featured on ESPN’s College Gameday and raised nearly $3 million for pediatric cancer patients at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital, said that mental health programs are important to be taken care of.

“Hopefully, people can be given opportunities to support every type of program that the hospitals have to offer,” King said. “The doctors and nurses from every department are really unsung heroes, and I hope they’re all eventually able to get every need met.”