From the State Capitol

This week brings an end to the first funnel. The amount of bills run through committee in the last two weeks has been significant. Any bills, except for tax, spending, and oversight bills, we would like to consider for the rest of the session need to be through the committee in their originating chamber, meaning Senate bills need to get through Senate committee and House bills through House committee.

This week I would like to take time to explain two of the bills I brought forward this year to address the complex needs gaps with the mental health system.

I started to gain interest in addressing the challenges of the mental health system back when I was door knocking for my campaign. I heard stories from family members about how this issue had touched or even changed their lives. Many had struggled to gain or maintain access to the mental health treatment they or their family members required.

I had my first engagement with the access challenges of the mental health system near the end of session last year. I had a call from a mental health advocate desperately seeking help for a patient. That patient had been held in an emergency room for a number of days and could not find placement for the proper level of treatment. Often times being accompanied by local law enforcement to ensure the patient did not harm themselves or hospital staff.

When looking at the situation it was apparent there were two principle challenges. How do we create access for the patient? How do we ensure our law enforcement is not being taken off their primary duties for days at a time?

Upon the commission of the Complex Needs Work Group created as a result of SF504 from last year’s legislative session, the collaboration had begun to assess the existing gaps in the current mental health system.

I have to commend all of the individuals involved in this work group. Due to the hard work and time taken by the stakeholders who facilitate our mental health services, they have paved the way for me to learn an enormous amount of information on this issue. It was with the collaboration and interaction with the stakeholder over the last year that I drafted SF 2252 to address the challenges of the complex needs mental health system.

SF 2252 moves forward to address the challenges for patient access and treatment. The legislation also addresses the challenges law enforcement faces when engaging with Iowans in need of mental health treatment.

One of the main goals of this legislation was to allow access to treatment and diversion from the corrections system. Here is a brief synopsis of how SF2252 accomplishes that goal.

SF 2252 provides assertive vision on how the Mental Health Regions will focus their funds over the next three years to fill the gaps of complex needs access and treatment.

The MHDS regions will have the flexibility to collaborate and create a minimum number of these new core services.

• 6 Access Centers (no eject, no reject) provide initial access and diversion

• 22 Assertive Community Treatment Teams

• Raising the cap from 75 beds of Intensive Residential Service Homes (IRSH homes) to a minimum of 120.

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State Sen. Jeff Edler can be reached at (641) 751-5902 or jeff.edler@legis.iowa.gov