Des Moines University.

Des Moines University administrators are asking for $250,000 in state taxpayer support — to help finance a new course about mental illness for all its students who are training to be doctors.

Governor Kim Reynolds says the proposal “makes sense,” but she and her staff are trying to figure out if there’s money in the state budget to support the effort to train future doctors in how best to diagnose mental conditions.

“What I love about DMU is they have doctors in almost all 99 counties and I come from rural Iowa, so I’m extremely appreciative of that,” Reynolds says, “and so it makes sense as we talk about access, especially for rural Iowa, that we’re training them to see the signs and help them get the services they need.”

The medical school already has raised private money to start teaching the course over the next six months to its medical students. Psychologist Lisa Streyffler, the chair of DMU’s department of behavioral medicine, spoke during a recent budget hearing in the governor’s office.

“As we train our osteopathic physicians, we know that we’re moving more and more to a community model of treating the folks with mental illnesses in our state and so what we’re thinking about as an educational institution is what can we do to create truly excellent primary care (doctors) to be providing a lot of that mental health care,” she said, “because we know that they are the folks who actually do the bulk of the work.”

She said doctors can help the overall health and well-being of their patients by being trained to recognize and treat symptoms of mental illness.

Des Moines University graduates more primary-care doctors than any medical school in the country.