The Struggle for Children’s Mental Health in Iowa

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!


History of The Struggle to get a Chidlren’s Mental Health System in Iowa

There have been consistent efforts to build a children’s mental health system in Iowa. The following documents show efforts since 2011.

 2011 Children’s Disability Services Workgroup Report

2012 Children’s Disability Services Workgroup Report

2013 Children’s Disability Services Workgroup Report 

The 2011-2013 Workgroups were part of the State’s Mental Health Redesign and recommended that the state build a Children’s Cabinet and charge it to build a system. It did not happen and the issue was dropped in 2014, after the redesign failed to include children in any meaningful way. (The only thing it contributed to children were the Pediatric Integrated Health Homes. They certainly were an improvement from nothing, but again, nothing close to resembling a system.) Many of us parents were heartbroken that kids were left behind again and we formed a Coalition of over 50 organizations and 100 individuals. This effort was co-chaired by myself (Tammy Nyden) and fellow parent Rene Speh. We wrote the Statewide Call for Action for a Children’s Mental Health Redesign, and this document helped move the state to form the Children’s Mental Health and Well-being work group in 2015 to return to the issue. Rene and I served on the 2015 and 2016 Workgroups and continue to serve on the current ongoing Children’s Mental Health and Advisory Committee.

SF505-SectionXXII – Legislative Action to Start Children’s Mental &Wellbeing Workgroup

2015 Children’s Mental Health and Well Being Final Report

2016 Children’s Mental Health and Well Being Final Report

It  is our hope that recent evidence of political will to improve Iowa’s mental health system applies to children as well.

Now is the time!