Three things for you to know this week
Mental health, foster care and a new face

Mental health

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed bills pertaining to adult mental health and suicide prevention efforts on Thursday, March 29. She also made a surprise announcement on a children’s mental health system. 

The adult mental health bill calls for 11 more Assertive Community Treatment teams to provide support in the home and community, including psychiatry, nursing and substance-use treatment. It also calls for six Access Centers to provide short-term crisis and residential services for individuals with a serious mental health and/or substance-use disorder requiring treatment, but not in a hospital setting. The bill does not, however, include any appropriations. We will be watching for the legislature to follow through with sufficient funds to implement the plans.

The suicide prevention bill requires licensed school personnel who have regular contact with students to undergo annual training on suicide prevention and “postvention,” identifying adverse childhood experiences and mitigating toxic stress. Postvention—likely a new word for many—is defined in the bill as “crisis intervention, support, and assistance for those affected by a suicide or suicide attempt to prevent further risk of suicide.” Though not as robust as we had hoped, the bill represents an important step in equipping school personnel with tools to address the mental health needs of their students.

In a surprise announcement, Gov. Reynolds said she plans to sign an executive order establishing the framework for a children's mental health system. A workgroup made recommendations for that system in February, but there was not yet legislative language on those findings. We are pleased to see a concrete step toward strengthened mental health services for children, and pleased that the Governor intends to based it on the workgroup recommendations. 

It will be important that the system—however it’s established—is a collaborative process building on the existing work done over the years by families, providers, policymakers and advocates. 

It was a crowded rotunda on Thursday for the Governor's bill signing. 

Foster care

Imagine if the need to remove children from their families for out-of-home placement could be reduced or eliminated altogether. Ambitious, perhaps. Nonetheless, this serves as the overarching goal of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), which was approved by Congress last month as part of the federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

The FFPSA restructures how the federal government spends money on child welfare, with the aim of keeping children in their homes whenever safe.

It will allow states to claim federal reimbursement for programs and services that prevent out-of-home placement—instead of having to wait until children are placed in care to access federal funds. Services that will now be eligible this funding—known as Title IV-E funding, for the specific federal code that governs it—include mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services and in-home programs for parents, including parenting skills training, parent education and counseling. The law also prioritizes placing children who do need out-of-home care with foster families instead of in group facilities.

Officials at the Iowa Department of Human Services have indicated their excitement around the FFPSA, according to Center policy associate Angelica Cardenas. “Not only will this law provide additional funding for important prevention programs, it will ultimately keep more Iowa families together,” she said.

Last year, an average of nearly 2,500 Iowa children each month were served through out-of-home placement programs, including family foster care, shelter and group care, according to the Iowa Department of Human Services.

A new face at CFPC

The Center is pleased to introduce Stephen Dykstra, who joined our team last week as the communication associate. An Iowa native and graduate of Northwestern College in Orange City, he’ll be working all aspects of our communication work, including social media, media relations and brand development. So you’ll be seeing his work right here in our newsletters.

Welcome, Stephen!


Find your legislator

Not sure who represents you? With 50 senators and 100 representatives, it can be hard to keep tabs. Visit our Legislator Lookup tool to find out who represents you in the state house and senate, biographical information about each one and a link to their legislative websites, which list contact information and committee membership. All you need to do is enter your home address and zip code. 

505 5th Ave., Ste. 404
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 280-9027 /

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