Iowa Statehouse Considers Proposal to Alleviate Mental Health Crisis

Mar 12, 2018

Iowans say mental health services are among their top concerns when it comes to state-supported issues, and lawmakers’ comments on mental health make the issue appear bipartisan.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR reporter Joyce Russell talk with lawmakers about how they are working to address concerns regarding mental health care in Iowa, as well as fielding calls from Iowans who have tried to get themselves or their loved ones care.

Erica of West Liberty called into the show to say that when her brother was suffering from a mental issue, the only option they had was to take him to an emergency room, “and if they’re not suicidal or homicidal, the ER lets them go,” she says. “So it’s just this revolving door.”

A bill in the Iowa Senate, House File 2456, would create new facilities to take pressure off hospitals and jails. These so-called “access centers” are places for a person to get stabilized, providing less care than a hospital, but much more than a jail.

Law enforcement officers are often on the front lines of the mental health crisis in Iowa. Capt. Bill Deatsch, co-chair of the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association legislative committee, says that having access centers would be helpful.

“That gives law enforcement another tool to be able to deal with people in crisis who are having mental health issues and or substance abuse issues, so we can deal with them before they even get into a criminal system,” says Deatsch. “They’re able to be a triage center for us […] We know that person is in crisis, and we can take them directly there.”

The bill also includes an expansion of sub-acute beds, intensive residential service homes, and establishes community treatment teams.