Bipartisan work on mental health continues

We continued with debate in earnest this week. Along with debate, we received many visitors. The Farm Bureau once again filled the rotunda with their members, including many of the board members from the Tama County Farm Bureau, Emily Ewoldt, Megan Eichmiller, Reid Monroe, Tyler Beenken, and Ray Plesek. It’s always good to hear from our young farmers and learn about the issues they face as they build their farming and agriculture industry careers.

One of the most highly anticipated bills of the session passed the House this week, House File 690, the Children’s Mental Health Bill. The legislature has not only listened to the people, but we’ve acted decisively on the mental health issue. Last session we passed bipartisan legislation strengthening our adult mental health system, and this year we’ve continued that work for our children by acting on recommendations from the Iowa Children’s Mental Health Board.

The backbone of this bill is to implement the infrastructure for a regional mental health system dedicated to the kids of Iowa, bringing together mental health providers, parents, and advocates, to lead the implementation. It establishes the criteria for eligibility for crisis services, as well as inpatient and outpatient treatment. The bill also establishes coordinators dedicated to children in each of our mental health regions as well as a statewide hotline for parents to get the information they need to get help for their children. This bill also addresses the need for additional funding and mental health professionals in rural areas. In order to help everyone in need, the services that currently exist in our urban areas must expand across the state’s rural areas as well.

We’ve also passed other legislation important to our children. House File 598

relates to the placement of siblings in the same class in grades K-5. Right now there are schools that don’t allow parents the choice of placing their children of the same age in the same class. This bill gives the right back to the parents to make that decision, consistent with House Republicans belief that parents should be given the freedom to choose what they think is best for their children. This bill also takes into consideration the behavior of the children, and if they are a disruption, the school has the ability to separate them.

House File 659 protects prosecution witnesses that are minors. With this bill, minors will no longer have to provide their deposition in front of the defendant who is accused of a crime against the child. We want to protect a minor from being intimidated or too scared from being able to fully give their deposition.

House File 644, the Family First Act, aligns Iowa with changes that have already been implemented on the federal level to help children that are in foster care to be placed with relatives before strangers. The Family First Act is important for kids by providing stability to them in their time of need.

I continue to be proud of the work we are doing in the Iowa Legislature. We are working hard to ensure that Iowa continues to be the great state that it is.

As always, I can be reached at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov and at 641-750-3594.