Iowa Rural Family Empowerment Program/1440

  • Meek, J.;
  • Olson, G. A.

The Iowa Rural Family Empowerment Program provides crisis management assistance with links to clinical outreach counseling for highly stressed farm and rural families. In addition, it provides community networking and capacity-building assistance in rural areas. The staff are paraprofessionals trained in family development, crisis management, community networking, group development and other areas related to assessment, decision making, and communication in families and community organizations.

The Iowa Rural Family Empowerment Program grew out of Section 1440 of the 1985 Farm Bill. The 1990 Farm Bill strengthened the program's relationship to rural mental health delivery. Iowa State University Extension matches the annual grant funds which come through the Farm Bill.

Use of the program reached record and near-record levels following the flood of 1993. For example, 385 stress management cases were logged during the year from October 1, 1991 - September 30, 1992. During the single month of March, 1994, 251 contacts related to emotional stress were logged. That same month, the number of men clients edged ahead of women clients for the first time in six months, reflecting in part the increased contact with farmers worried about securing financing for this year's crops. The staff has worked extensively since mid-February helping acclimate new family-support program associates as part of the flood recovery effort.

Because individuals and families in stress are often hesitant or unable to seek help during crisis times, a referral network is critical to linking 1440 outreach staff to families in need. Referrals come from churches, the legal system, neighbors, extension staff, mediation services, state agencies, state legislators, and the Rural Concerns Hotline. Program staff provide important links to other agencies and resources for rural families who have traditionally not been able to access health services, both mental and physical, as frequently as urban families.

Several studies have shown connections between financial stress, emotional stress, abuse and violence, and physical injuries. Records kept by the Iowa Rural Family Empowerment Program regarding the nature of visits, referrals made, financial position, stress, and demographics of clients can provide valuable information about the needs of rural families in Iowa. Both research and program staff can utilize the information to design strategies to improve the physical and mental health of those who live and work in rural communities.

This research abstract was extracted from a portion of the proceedings of "Agricultural Safety and Health: Detection, Prevention and Intervention," a conference presented by the Ohio State University and the Ohio Department of Health, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

The authors noted above are from: Iowa State Univ. Extension, Mt. Pleasant, IA and Iowa State Univ. Extension, Ames, IA respectively.

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