An annual study of problem gamblers in the state shows Iowa’s publicly funded treatment services are helping people quit. Mark Vander Linden is the Gambling Treatment Program coordinator with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

He says the study found, six months following treatment, 95% of respondents reported they had reduced or quit problem gambling behaviors. In addition, 41% of people entering treatment said they had been late paying their bills.

By discharge, that number dropped to 21%. The study was conducted in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Social and Behavioral Research. Around 940 people sought help from Iowa’s Gambling Treatment Program in 2008.

The treatment usually involves a group setting or one-on-one visits with a counselor. "It’s primarily driven by the goals of the person who is seeking the help, paying attention to whatever problems that brought them in and trying to come up with some concrete solutions to address those problems," Vander Linden said.

The number of people seeking help for problem gambling dropped between 2007 and 2008. Vander Linden says he expects the numbers to jump back up considering the economic downturn and the state’s rising unemployment rate.

"Often times it’s an accumulation of problems that drive a person to get help for the gambling problem," Vander Linden said. "So, it’ll be interesting to see…how many individuals are out there asking for help."

The Iowa Gambling Treatment Program’s annual budget is around four-million dollars. That money come from the Iowa Legislature’s general fund. The program has providers at 55 locations in the state. Iowans seeking help for gambling problems, regardless of their ability to pay, can call 1-800-BETS-OFF to receive assistance.

See the study here