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IA Disability Advocates Push for Mental-Health, Community-Care Funding

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According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost five times as often as do adults without disabilities. (Adobe Stock)
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost five times as often as do adults without disabilities. (Adobe Stock)
January 20, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa - Advocates for Iowans with disabilities want state lawmakers to dedicate more funding in two key areas: mental-health treatment and community-based care.

As the Legislature begins its new session, the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council has said it's trying to get lawmakers to pay attention to an issue the general public might not be aware of. Bill Kallestad, the council's public policy director, said people with disabilities often struggle with mental distress on top of their original diagnosis. He said not having access to mental-health care can set these individuals back.

"They're not able to work on the independent skills for developmental disabilities," he said, "because maybe the prevalent need is to kind of focus on their mental-health services."

Kallestad pointed to gaps in access to licensed counselors, and said a reliable funding stream could ensure that more people get the care they need.

The council also urges full funding of a Medicaid program to increase the reach of community-based care. While Iowa does have a budget surplus, legislative leaders have said COVID relief, including small-business aid, will get top priority.

Republican leaders also have noted they're expecting a lot of funding requests from across the state, making it harder to set priorities when so many people are in need right now. As for increasing funding for community-based care, Kallestad said it's important to reduce the wait times that residents with disabilities have dealt with.

"There are waiting lists for both young children and adults," he said.

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

Disclosure: Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities, Health Issues, Mental Health. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA