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Improving mental health, public safety

January 31, 2013
By State Senator Steve Sodders - D-State Center , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Many Iowans and organizations have volunteered their time and expertise to guide the work of the Legislature as we look for ways to better help those in need of mental health and disability services.

The Mental Health and Disability Services Redesign Study Committee officially completed its work on January 11, capping off months of research, collaboration and meetings. Based on their recommendations, the Legislature will decide how to implement changes to Iowa's mental health system that were approved last year. We must ensure that current services are maintained and that a base level of services is provided statewide.

Public safety officials and crisis intervention providers recently visited the Statehouse to talk with legislators about interventions for Iowans struggling with mental illness.

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State Senator Steve Sodders

Sheriff's department representatives from several counties discussed their jail diversion programs. If a person with a mental illness is in the jail for a non-violent crime, they can become part of the jail diversion program. This allows them to consult with a mental health professional and a mental health advocate. The sheriffs reported that these programs significantly reduce recidivism and enhance public safety by addressing the mental illness and substance abuse issues of those who land in jail because of those issues.

Many Iowans have told me that restoring and expanding mental health services is a must. Though Governor Branstad did not mention mental health services in his Condition of the State speech or provide any new funding to implement mental health improvements in his budget proposal, Senate Democrats are committed to ensuring access to services when they are needed.



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