The following was posted on this site during the 2018 Iowa legislative session and was last updated on March 25, 2018. I am keeping it here as an archive of my previous posts and pages as part of documenting the struggle for children’s mental health justice in Iowa.
Calls for action:
The 2018 Legislative Session
(updated Sunday, March 29, 2018)
There is recent progress for adult mental health in Iowa. The Complex Needs bill passed both chambers unanimously and Governor Reynolds signed it into law on March 29, 2018. This legislation will create 6 Access Centers across the state and provide Assertive Community Treatment in each Mental Health Region. While this is a victory for adult mental health in Iowa, once again, children are left behind. This bill will not affect Iowan’s under 18 because the current mental health system (the Mental Health Regions and the Tax Levy that fund it) are only charged with serving adults.
However, children did have a victory in the current session. Senate File 2113, which was amended in the House, unanimously passed both chambers and was also signed by Governor Reynolds on March 29, 2018. This bill requires school teachers to take 1 hour of training per year on suicide awareness, prevention, and trauma-informed care. Given that we were one of the only states in the country without such mandatory training, this is certainly movement in the right direction. A thank you to all of our legislators that passed this bill unanimously in both chambers! And thank you to Governor Reynolds who is expected to sign the bill this week!
The best part is that when signing these bills, Governor Reynolds promised to sign an executive order establishing a platform to build a children’s mental health system based on the Children’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Advisory Committee’s recommendation. This is very exciting!
The top concern among Iowa voters in 2018 is the current mental health crisis. Finally there is public understanding of the importance of mental health to the well-being of our state and an awareness of Iowa’s need to improve mental health services. This is becoming a key election issue for midterm elections. However, most public discussions are still neglecting children‘s mental health. Further, Iowa has a long history of systematically neglecting children in its mental health policies and funding.
This part of my website is meant to help inform the public, elected officials, and candidates of all political persuasions about the status of children’s mental health in Iowa and opportunities for improvement. First and foremost, I speak as a proud parent of an amazing kid with neurological differences, who unfortunately suffers from disabling mental health conditions. However, this website also reflects insights gained from over four years of experience as a children’s mental advocate in Iowa, including service on state-level advisory councils and work groups. My motivation for this site is that there is currently no advocacy organization in Iowa that focuses on children’s mental health, nor are there state, regional, or local points of accountability for children’s mental health in Iowa. My hope is that this site will serve as a helpful resource so that we can all better work together to help Iowa kids.
The General Picture
Iowa does not have a children’s mental health system.
- There is no dedicated funding for a children’s mental health system.
- Iowa’s existing Mental Health System (The MHDS Regions and the Property Tax Levy that funds them) are not charged to serve Iowan’s under the age of 18.
- There is no point of accountability, planning, or coordination at the state, regional, or local level for children’s mental health.
- There is no state code ensuring core services for children throughout the state. (There is for adults.)
This is not only age discrimination, it is foolish policy because as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) points out:
- Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin before the age of 14 (75% by age 24). and early treatment substantially reduces lifelong disability and the high costs associated with it.
- The average age of delay between onset and diagnosis is 8-10 years.
- Treatment reduces disability and increases resilience, but it is most effective during the brain’s development from birth to age 26.
Make no mistake about it – Iowa is already paying for its neglect of children’s mental health. Our lack of prevention and early intervention results in a much more expensive adult system, higher rates of incarceration, homelessness, unemployment, severity of disability, etc. Further, according to the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Half of students over age 14 with a mental health disorder drop out of school.
- 70% of youth in state and local juvenile justice systems have a mental illness.
Not to mention Iowa’s youth suicide rate is higher than the national average and the second leading killer of our state’s adolescents and young adults.
Recent efforts to improve Iowa’s mental health system do not affect children because the current system does not serve children. This includes this year’s Complex Needs bill, which has received so much attention in the news. Make no mistake about it, in Iowa when it comes to mental health:
If children are not written in, they are written off!
So let’s fix this together!
This is an open invitation to all Iowa legislators, Governor Reynolds, State Agency Leadership, and Advocates to work together to help Iowa kids!
Click here to see what a full array of services and community supports would include in a robust Children’s Mental Health System.
Click here for recommended next steps to form that system.
Click here for the most current Call for Action – what advocates can do right now!
Click here for the history of the struggle to get Children’s Mental Health System in Iowa.
Click here to hear first-hand stories of parents raising children with mental illness.