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Candor, Action, Dignity, Respect

November 23, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

Candor.

On page two of the introduction to the "Children's System State Board Strategic Plan," under the Reason to Act subsection, the plan's authors write, "The current children's behavioral health system is inadequate to address our children's behavioral health needs."

This plan is under the purview of the Iowa Department of Human Services. The above admission is remarkable not for its candor; it is remarkable because, by making it, DHS has crossed its Rubicon.

Because editorial writers rely on statistics to buttress their arguments, I provide a few of my own courtesy of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. According to NAMI, 600,000 Iowans deal with some form of mental illness; of these, 37,000 are considered serious.

Statistics can be persuasive; they can also be distant. For anyone who has a mental illness or for their families, statistics mean nothing; solutions are what matter.

Action.

Effective July 2020, the Children's System will provide universal behavioral health screenings for all children in Iowa from birth through 18 years. According to the plan, the screenings will be administered at "key developmental stages of childhood" and will be "linked to appropriate assessments and services."

There is much in the plan to give one pause. At the top of page two, one of the bullet points specifies that regional governance will be "the point of responsibility and accountability by developing access to the required set of core services regardless of funding source" For many rural Iowans, healthcare is a hot topic. Under the Affordable Care Act, many Iowans who never had healthcare insurance were able to sign up. Others who had insurance saw their premiums double. The state's decision to privatize Medicare remains controversial. And now the state expects rural communities to fund these screenings. Do not get me wrong; I am all for this plan. What I am arguing for is vigilance to ensure this well-intentioned proposal does not get lost in the logistics.

Dignity.

Page seven of the plan lists the array of support services for moderately severe to severe conditions. The 15 services listed under the array are derived from NAMI's Adult Mental Health Service Array and run the gamut from education and outreach to inpatient hospital psychiatric. A broken leg is not a mystery; diagnosis and treatment are transparent. Schizophrenia is peculiar to the individual who has it; it is an extension of the individual's history and personality. In a perfect world, these 15 services would treat the individual and not just his or her disease. Again, I am not criticizing the plan; I am advocating vigilance.

Respect.

History has not been kind to individuals with mental illness. From sanitariums to lobotomies to shock treatment, society's response has been palliative, not progressive. Provided it does not get lost in politics, this plan offers children and their families a genuine chance to receive treatment.

The plan authors put it best. On page two, under the Vision subsection, they write:

All Iowa children will live safe, healthy, successful lives with their families and friends, and in their schools and communities and have access to an array of behavioral health core services and supports they need.

Let us make sure.

 
 
 

 

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