Legislative Action: Kids & Mental Health

Week two of the legislative session saw many subcommittee meetings and beginning discussions about the budget. We’ve been meeting with legislative leaders, briefing them on our issues, and answering questions and concerns. What are some of the top issues?

Kids and Mental Health

The governor talked about the need to establish a children’s mental health system in her Condition of the State last week, and we’ve been hearing much of the same from legislative leaders we met with this week. There seems to be a consensus that, as the governor said, the time for talk is over. We want to see action. The Children’s Behavioral Health System State Board, of which I’m a member, in November recommended the following to the Governor and Legislature:

  • Age-appropriate, universal behavioral health screenings that determine whether a child needs behavioral health services be provided at periodic intervals to Iowa’s children and their families.
  • Children with an identified need for behavioral health services have access to the right services by the right provider at the right time provided in the right amount to address the identified behavioral health needs.
  • The Children’s State Board be made permanent in statute AND the Department of Human Services support and carry out the directions of the State Board and direct and guide the regional governance system throughout the state.
  • Regional governance be designated as the point of responsibility and accountability for developing access to the required set of core services, regardless of funding source.
  • Stable, ongoing funding shall be identified and secured that maximizes available funds from all private, local, state, and federal sources. 

Your Action: We hope to see a bill draft very soon. In the meantime, we encourage you to read the Strategic Plan produced by DHS for the Children’s Board and review the handouts about the recommendations.

Keep My Rx Campaign

Patient advocates, including NAMI, are again encouraging law-makers to address the issue of non-medical switching and ensuring continuity of care. Nonmedical switching is a practice commonly used by health plans to kick stable patients off their prescribed medications in favor of cheaper alternatives, without consulting their physicians. Health plans may use tactics that undermine continuity of care to save money and boost short term profits.

As mental health advocates well know, medication is often the most effective way for people to manage their chronic conditions. They must have timely access the medication that works for them, so they can stay stable and lead productive lives.

NAMI Iowa is part of the Keep My Rx coalition, which would restrict health plans from implementing the following tactics on enrollees who are prescribed a currently covered drug:

  • Limiting or reducing the maximum coverage of prescription drug benefits
  • Increasing cost sharing for a covered prescription drug
  • Moving a prescription drug to a more restrictive tier
  • Removing a prescription drug from a formulary

Your Action: We need your help to spread the word and protect patients in Iowa. Go towww.KeepMyR.org to share your story or get involved in the campaign.

How Do I Communicate?

I’m often asked about the most effective ways to communicate with legislators.

The MOST effective way to communicate is in person, either in the legislator’s home district or the Capitol. During the session it’s often challenging to find legislators at the Statehouse and get more than 10 minutes to meet with them, so we recommend trying to connect Friday-Sunday during the session or during the eight months of the year they are not in session.

The second-best method is good old snail mail, because they don’t get that much anymore. The third best is a phone call, and fourth best is a personalized email.

No matter how you do it, introduce yourself if you don’t already know them. Tell them you’re a constituent, you are a NAMI member or supporter, and you care about mental health programs and services. Share a little of your personal story if you have one. Then tell them the specific bill you are contacting them about. Why do you want them to support or oppose it?

Your State Senator is Senator Quirmbach. Their phone number is (515) 281-3371.

Your State Representative is Representative Wessel-Kroeschell. Their phone number is (515) 281-3221.

It’s best to call while they are in session, Monday at 1 PM to Thursday at 12 PM. Once you get to know them better, get their cell phone number to call and text.

Keep on advocating!

**This information was provided by NAMI Iowa

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