On March 29, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law two bills that mental health advocates, including NAMI Iowa, have been pushing for all year.
The first bill (HF 2456) will, among other things, expand mental health services across the state by creating six access centers that would help mental health patients who don’t require hospitalization.
The second, (SF 2113), will require school districts to adopt nationally recognized suicide prevention and intervention protocols, including training for teachers.
For me, the passage of these bills was an incredible moment, not just in regards to mental health progress, but also in regards to our current political atmosphere of partisanship and division.
Whenever any major legislation appears before an elected body, be it either at the state or federal level, it seems Republicans and Democrats can never quite come to an agreement. For example, late last year, the U.S. Congress passed a tax plan along a strict party line vote that received no support from Democrats in either chamber (and even received opposition from some House Republicans).
However, according to the Iowa Legislature’s website, both of the mental health bills Gov. Reynolds signed were passed unanimously when they appeared before both the Iowa House and Senate.
This is especially significant given that Republicans outnumber Democrats 59 to 41 in the House and 28 to 20 in the Senate.
In other words, mental health reform is an issue that both Iowa Republicans and Democrats want to achieve and are willing to work together on to do so.
The only possible problem may be that of actually funding these measures.
While both laws were passed unanimously, it still remains to be seen how much these bills will be funded—and if the funding they do receive will be enough to make them effective.
I’m hopeful that Republicans (who effectively decide the state’s budget given their majority rule) will continue to support meaningful mental health reform and fully implement these bills.
After all, Iowans have made it clear that mental health is one of the biggest voting issues for them during this year’s midterm elections.
And as much as Republican lawmakers may dream of delivering on new tax cuts, mental health patients across Iowa dream of having their issues finally taken seriously by their representatives and receiving the care they need.