New Brain Health Needs Assessment Released

The Community Foundation’s new Brain Health Needs Assessment acknowledges positive efforts to increase access to resources while identifying opportunities for further work.

Increasing provider capacity, fostering data-sharing, and addressing needs through a diversity and equity lens are among the recommendations for strengthening Dubuque’s brain health resource network in a new report published by the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.

The new Brain Health Needs Assessment is the result of the Community Foundation’s work to help increase access to services and tackle one of the most pressing needs in the Dubuque region. It provides a road map for next steps that organizations can take as they continue to make brain health a priority.

“We’ve been proud to facilitate our brain health initiative for the past seven years,” says Peter Supple, director of nonprofit relations at the Community Foundation and leader of the Foundation’s brain health work. “It has led to many important, systemic improvements, and community-wide efforts will continue long into the future.”

Thanks to funding from the East Central Region and Dubuque County, the Community Foundation conducted the assessment over several months in 2022 in partnership with consultant Dr. Colton Strawsser. Service providers, civic leaders and everyday residents provided input through surveys and focus groups.

Through the process, the Foundation identified several priority issues:

  • Limited provider capacity: The wait for services can be three to six months, posing challenges for people who need immediate care.
  • Insurance: Many private practices have stopped accepting insurance, putting the cost of services out of reach for some community members.
  • Language barriers: Dubuque lacks sufficient providers who are fluent in Marshallese and Spanish, limiting access for community members who speak these languages.
  • Youth services: Brain health issues are increasing among children and young adults, and there are opportunities to reach youth through resources in and out of school.

The report also makes numerous recommendations, including:

  • Find new ways to increase provider capacity.
  • Strengthen collaboration and coordinate resources among organizations working in the brain health field.
  • Evaluate and adjust local advocacy efforts that encourage people to tend to their brain health and reduce stigma.
  • Prioritize equitable access and efforts to reach diverse communities.
  • Offer services that span the entire brain health spectrum.
  • Foster data sharing among organizations.

“This report points the way toward the future of brain health care in the Dubuque region,” says Chris Corken, a Community Foundation board member who served as a liaison to local law enforcement leaders working to implement new brain health protocols. “It builds on the great strides our community has made in the past seven years.”

The Community Foundation first identified brain health as a priority through a 2016 community needs assessment. Respondents noted that access to services was a major barrier to people being able to thrive. In response, the Foundation convened two working groups focused on finding solutions to adult and child brain health issues.

The efforts of those groups led to new resources for local law enforcement that empower them to connect people with brain health services as opposed to making arrests, as well as services in the Dubuque County Jail designed to reduce recidivism by linking former inmates with services upon release.

The collaboration among local leaders also has made scholarships available for providers in need of evidence-based training and led to new brain health resource rooms in Dubuque schools.

“One of the biggest accomplishments has been changing mindsets,” Supple says. “Through our work with Debi Butler’s Brain Health Now organization, we’ve made great progress toward reducing stigma and sending a message that brain health is an issue that deserves to be discussed openly.”

Download the Brain Health Needs Assessment