Disability AI advocates call for funding for community mental health care / Public Information Service

DES MOINES, Iowa – Disability advocates in Iowa want state lawmakers to spend more money on two key areas: mental health treatment and community care.

As the Legislative Assembly begins its new session, the Council for Developmental Disorders of Iowa said he was trying to get lawmakers to pay attention to an issue the general public might not be aware of. Bill Kallestad, the council’s director of public policy, said people with disabilities often experience mental distress in addition to their initial diagnosis. He said not having access to mental health care can set these people back.

“They are not able to work on independent skills for developmental disabilities,” he said, “because the prevailing need may be to focus on their mental health services.”

Kallestad highlighted gaps in access to licensed counselors, and said that a reliable flow of funding could ensure more people receive the care they need.

The council is also seeking full funding for a Medicaid program to increase the reach of community care. Although Iowa has a budget surplus, legislative leaders have said helping COVID, including helping small businesses, will be the top priority.

Republican leaders have also noted that they are waiting for many requests for funding from across the state, making it harder to prioritize when so many people are in need right now. As for increasing funding for community care, Kallestad said it was important to reduce the wait times residents with disabilities faced.

“There are waiting lists for young children and adults,” he said.

Kallestad said these waiting lists can reduce the chances of better outcomes for children with disabilities and potentially prevent some adults from gaining independent lives. The council does not have a specific amount tied to the funding request, but said it has had productive meetings with Senatorial Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville.

Disclosure: Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council contributes to our disability, health issues and mental health reporting fund. If you would like to help support the news in the public interest, click here.

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