Capitol Update: Week 8

House Advances Bipartisan Comprehensive Mental Health Bill

On Tuesday the Iowa House passed House File 2456, a bill that addresses gaps in the mental health system in the state.

This is an issue that is personal to many Iowans. Few people are immune from the loss of a family member or friend who suffered from a lifelong battle with depression. Too often there is another tragic story in the news of a family feeling hopeless as they seek treatment far from home for their loved one’s chronic mental illness; but sadly, even more frequently, the stigma associated with mental illness drives the family to silence.

Legislators are regularly contacted about the costs for law enforcement to drive across the state and find inpatient psychiatric beds; the costs to the hospitals that are not reimbursed for a patient no longer in need of acute level placement; and the costs to our jails and prisons for unintentionally becoming the default locations to treat individuals with mental illness.

The House Majority carefully modeled HF 2456 based on recommendations from mental health experts in the state.  This bill takes a significant step forward to address these complex issues.

This bill increases access to mental health services and creates new services for urban and rural communities in Iowa. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agencies estimates that Medicaid members will make up 80% of the clientele using these preventative services, and this bill ensures long-term sustainable funding for these mental health and substance abuse services as Medicaid covered services.

Importantly, this bill returns mental health care determinations to medical professionals, instead of judges and law enforcement officers. Mental illness is a health condition, and it should be treated as compassionately as any other illness.

We also passed House File 2305 this week to expand telehealth services in Iowa.  Many rural parts of the state have limited access to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. This bill expands the options for a mental health provider to see a patient using modern technology.

Both of these bills take a significant step forward in improving the mental health system in Iowa, and a detailed analysis of each bill can be found below.

Iowa Ranks Best State in America

Is this Heaven?  No, it’s Iowa.

In recent months, Iowa has received numerous accolades highlighting our strong fiscal management, high quality education system, and affordability for families.

This week, US News & World Report named the Best State in America.  They ranked Iowa number in the nation.  The rankings include all 50 states and compiled 77 metrics with thousands of data points.

The report ranks Iowa highly in several categories including:

  • Infrastructure – #1
  • Health Care – #3
  • Opportunity – #4
  • Education – #5
  • Quality of Life – #9

This new report confirms what many Iowans already knew:  Iowa is a great place to live, work, raise a family, or grow a business.  The House majority is just getting started in efforts to make our state even better for future generations.

News from District 96

I met with Dr. Ken Paulsen on Wednesday.  We discussed issues including funding the ISU Animal Diagnostic Lab.  I also got to see the first half of the Monticello Girls Basketball game at the State tournament before being called back to the Capitol to vote.

Dominic Hogan, of the Jones County Farm Bureau, and I visited about health care issues.

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