Monday, May 20, 2024

State behavioral health services to be completely reformed after Gov. Reynolds signs law

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – The way people receive help for mental health and substance abuse in Iowa is facing a major change.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed house file 2673 into law Wednesday morning in Cedar Rapids. It combines different behavioral health services all across the state into one system.

This change was described as a complete reform of the way the state handles behavior health and disability services.

”For the first time, we will have an intentionally planned system that includes, in statute, prevention, treatment and recovery,” said Kelly Garcia with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services.

Governor Reynolds said navigating and accessing services across the state is currently too difficult.

Right now, there are 13 mental health and disability service regions. Those have mainly focused on mental health. There are 19 separate service areas for substance use treatment, even though mental health struggles tend to go hand-in-hand with substance use.

With this law, the new system will be comprised of 7 districts where these services will be a unified under one behavioral health network.

”By bringing services together in this way, we’ll enable better coordination of care, supporting the best possible outcomes for each individual,” said Iowa Govenor Kim Reynolds.

These changes could take effect a year from now.

TV9′s Rebekah Vaughan spoke with a mother who says she hopes this bill with help people like her own son.

”Our son, early on, many years ago, they really thought it was a substance use disorder primarily, so we got treatment for him at a substance use treatment center, which was fine, but it didn’t really address, even though it was known as a dual diagnosis program, it didn’t address his mental illness beyond giving him the same prescription he already had from a psychiatrist,” said Leslie Carpenter with Iowa Mental Health Advocacy.

Carpenter said mental illnesses and substance use disorders often go hand in hand, but getting care for both in the same place can be tricky.

”If you have someone who has mental illness and you’re getting them into mental illness treatment, but they also have a substance use disorder, often there are some psychiatrists who won’t even address the other part,” Carpenter said.

Wednesday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed the bipartisan mental health reform bill at the new headquarters of the nonprofit Foundation Two in Cedar Rapids. It changes the state’s 13 mental health and disability service regions and 19 separate service areas for substance use treatment.

”While the mental health regions are funded by the state, they’re not aligned with the substance use disorder system,” said Govenor Reynolds. ”The result is a duplicative and inconsistent program statewide, an inefficient system, and worst of all, poor outcomes.”

Those 32 separate regions will become one unified behavioral health system, broken up into 7 districts.

Steps are already being taken so the law can be implemented by next year, but Carpenter has some concerns about the transitions process.

”It’s always nerve wracking when things get reorganized and I sure hope we don’t lose providers, right, in the interim, but in the long run it only makes sense to provide care in a more integrated way,” Carpenter said.

But overall, she’s hoping the new law helps people like her son.

”My hope is that it will be easier to access care in a setting that is a lot less traumatic than what our son accessed care. We ended up having to take our son to the emergency department of a hospital the first time that he really needed care and that’s a traumatic setting,” Carpenter said.

For anyone in crisis, there is help. You can call the National Crisis Lifeline at 988. That connects callers to local people who can offer support and understanding.

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