To the editor:

This year, the Iowa Legislature made mental health a priority by passing many significant mental health bills. Unlike the false claims in a recent letter to the editor, I voted to expand access to mental health services in communities throughout the state, fund these additional services, require training of teachers to recognize signs of depression and to increase the mental health workforce in Iowa.

Because of this legislative session, gaps in Iowa’s current mental health system will be filled with access centers, Assertive Community Treatment teams, crisis services and Intensive Residential Service Homes. This legislation will strengthen Iowa’s regional mental health system, ensuring Iowans with mental illness can access services near their families and in their home communities.

Importantly, this bill returns mental health care determinations to medical professionals, instead of judges and law enforcement officers. Mental illness is a health condition, and it should be treated as compassionately as any other illness.

We also expanded access to care with telehealth. Many rural parts of the state have limited access to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. By adding telehealth coverage, there will be additional options for a mental health provider to see a patient using modern technology, and will decrease the time a patient waits to receive treatment. The legislature has also expanded the mental health workforce by funding new psychiatric residencies in Iowa.

These bills were all successful because both parties came together and worked closely with families and individuals who have experienced mental health crises, mental health professionals, and law enforcement to find solutions. However, I know the work is never complete, and I am expecting recommendations from additional experts about children’s mental health, commitment reforms and establishing psychiatric intensive care units this next legislative session.

State Representative Dave Deyoe