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Reynolds signs two key mental health bills


Mental health advocates joined Gov. Kim Reynolds this morning in the Capitol rotunda to witness her sign two important bills recently passed unanimously by the Iowa Legislature — a wide-ranging bill aimed at shoring up the state’s mental health system, and legislation requiring schools to provide teacher training for suicide prevention. 

“We are excited about the significant progress these bills represent in improving our mental health system,” said Peggy Huppert, executive director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Iowa. “They’ve both been a long time coming. To see them pass unanimously and be signed on the same day is thrilling.”

Just one month ago, leaders from three Iowa health care organizations held a press conference in the rotunda to call attention to the urgency of and progress on mental health legislation in the Iowa Legislature. 

Representatives from the Iowa Hospital Association, Iowa Medical Society and NAMI Iowa joined forces to draw attention to an online petition that has garnered nearly 5,000 signatures. They also referenced a recent Iowa Poll that showed that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Iowans believe that our mental health system is in crisis (35 percent) or a big problem (38 percent). Only 9 percent said it is “working just fine.” 

House File 2456 enacts into law the recommendations of the Complex Needs Workgroup along with other mental health system improvements related to civil commitment. Advocates say the measure takes steps that should significantly improve Iowa’s mental health system when implemented. The workgroup was charged with recommending ways to improve the delivery of, access to, and coordination and continuity of mental health, disability, and substance use disorder services, particularly for individuals with complex mental health, disability and substance use disorder needs. 

Senate File 2113 requires K-12 school employee training and protocols relating to suicide prevention and the identification of adverse childhood experiences and strategies to mitigate toxic stress response. Mental health groups say it’s a good first step toward improvements in school-based mental health education and awareness.

For more on mental health issues in Greater Des Moines, check out dsm Magazine’s publication “Lifting the Veil.”

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