Support children's mental health effort | News, Sports, Jobs – Marshalltown Times Republican Express News

I was pleased when Gov. Kim Reynolds emphasized the importance of taking action on children’s mental health issues. She did that in her State of the State Address. We now have her proposed legislation and it is moving forward in the legislative process.

It is, at this point, a structural bill. It will put together the structure for the delivery of these services to Iowa’s children. To me, the important action we should take is expanding the current system of services that we have in place for adults and ensuring that treatment is available across our state to our children.

Expansion will require additional state dollars going into the system. In the mid-1990s, Iowa embarked on transferring more of the cost of mental health treatment away from property tax dollars to income and sales tax revenue. What occurred is a very unequal system of property tax payments across the state. Essentially, counties that grew in population have property taxpayers who are paying less for mental health services than counties where the population decreased. This is the case even though the per capita incomes are often higher in the counties that had population increases. Little has been done to change this and it should be corrected.

We know the solutions to the children’s mental service needs. Almost every physical and mental condition benefits from early intervention. Our knowledge about the onset of mental health conditions has improved greatly since I became a mental health professional more than 30 years ago. We need to be able to put that increased knowledge to use for the benefit of our children.

This will require incentives for people to enter the mental health professions. Every area of mental health treatment has shortages: from psychiatrists to counselors.

We also need to follow and avail the Marshalltown model of providing as many mental health services as possible within our schools. School-based mental health services allow for the child to have the least disruption to her/his school day, provides services in the environment where the child and parents are comfortable and enables the mental health professional to coordinate treatment with classroom teachers.

Suicide is an action in which some of the victims are not the deceased. The lifelong impact on family, friends, neighbors and associates is devastating. It is a permanent solution to an often temporary problem. With young people, it is often copied. When a young person dies by suicide, there is a danger that there will be more young people dying by suicide. We need to offer immediate and effective crisis services to help prevent, improve coping and protect lives when suicides occur. I’ve introduced legislation that would create support teams to do just that.

For more information on children’s mental health and other issues, I can be reached at: 816 Roberts Terrace, Marshalltown, telephone: 641-750-9278 or by email at mark.smith@legis.iowa.gov

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