The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Local mental health organization wins more funding

Contributed 100+ People Who Care votes on a charity to receive funding four times per year. Contributed photo.
100+ People Who Care votes on a charity to receive funding four times per year. Contributed photo.


By Lily Seibert

Last Tuesday, Jan. 30, the local Grinnell charity group 100+ People Who Care voted to donate $7,700 to the JPK fund, which aims to raise awareness and distribute money to various groups fighting for mental health across Poweshiek County. The effort was spearheaded by Dr. J. R. Paulson, who started the fund in late September of 2017 and has been working to “get mental health out of the closet” ever since.

A background in philosophy, as well as in chemistry and medicine, led Paulson to adopt a holistic view of medicine that encompasses mindfulness, sexual health and substance control. However, he felt especially compelled to act after the tragic suicide of his medical partner, Dr. Jeffrey Knobloch, a year and a half ago. According to Paulson, Knobloch checked into an institution a week prior to taking his own life but was released after just two days, in part because his insurance lacked coverage for mental health care. At the funeral, Paulson was still reeling from a range of emotions and trying to figure out how to best express himself to the attendees.   

“I got up and basically went on a controlled, thought-out rant about how angry I was. … I’m angry at the medical system. I’m angry at Grinnell College because they can put up a million dollar building but be very slim in support for health among their students and faculty and staff. I must have talked for 20 minutes to a half-hour. After, I got an applause. This is a funeral, and I got an applause. All of these people came up to me after and told me, ‘you said what needed to be said.’”

Since then, Paulson has worked to initiate a number of movements towards improving Grinnell’s mental health care infrastructure. He started a consortium of people willing to donate time and money to the cause, hoping to build up a fund in honor of Knobloch to help patients who are unable to pay for treatment. The practitioners would send a bill to the consortium, receive payment from the money in the fund, and the patients would receive treatment for free. After just four months of operating, the fund has managed to raise several hundred thousand dollars.

The latest influx of funds is coming from 100+ People Who Care, a charity organization which helps direct money towards worthy causes. According to founder Christine Day, the group meets four times per year and each member nominates a charity. Each name is put into a hat and three are chosen at random. Afterwards, the leaders of each charity advocate for their cause and the members vote. This year, the JPK fund was selected from among three candidates.

“The members know of the great need we have in our area to provide mental health services to those who are not able to afford care,” Day wrote in an email to The S&B. “We have several initiatives taking place in our community to address this need. What did happen is that we now have more people in our community aware of the fund, which is managed by the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation.”   

Paulson cites the commitment of volunteers rallying together as what has made the JPK fund as successful as it has been thus far.

“I have a lot of people who I know and who over the last year or so have come up to me and said, ‘I want to really do something for mental health. Is there anything I can do? Let me know,’” Paulson said. “Retired school counselors, business people in town, school people, educators, therapists. We wanted to form a consortium to do this, and the people just hopped on. I didn’t have to twist any arms.”

Paulson has ambitious plans for the JPK fund in the future. Within the next month or so, he plans to institute a crisis house in Grinnell for those facing domestic violence, substance abuse or mental health emergencies. People would be able to stay as long as they need in order to reestablish their lives, receive treatment and transition into their next phase. Additionally, Paulson would like to weave mental health education into school curricula and church programming so that people can better detect signs of mental illness in themselves and others.

“I’m not one to let things just be as they are,” Paulson said. “Quit complaining about stuff, do something. So I’m going to try to make some changes around here.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *