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Governor Reynolds' Children’s Mental Health Bill Moves Forward

John Pemble / IPR
Iowa Capitol

Many of Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ priorities have passed early hurdles in the legislative process, and a deadline for lawmakers to move bills forward is Friday. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talks with IPR State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric about the week ahead at the legislature.

One of the governor’s top priorities for a children’s mental health plan has advanced. Right now Iowa doesn’t have a comprehensive mental health system for children. “Services are inconsistent across the state and parents of kids with mental illness say it’s extremely difficult to find and pay for services,” Sostaric says. Reynolds says her bill would be the first step to create a children’s mental health system aligned with the adult system. It would direct the mental health regions to develop and provide specific services for children.

The mental health bill still has some hurdles. Mental health advocates at a hearing said they were happy about the progress. But there are a lot of concerns about eligibility requirements being too strict and a lack of deadlines for developing services. It got through the first step of subcommittees in the House and Senate last week. On Monday, senators are scheduled to vote on the plan in a full committee.

An education bill turned some heads last week. The bill would have ended requirements for school districts to have a school nurse and teacher librarian. Supporters of doing this said by removing some state requirements, it would allow school boards to make decisions that are best for local students. "There seemed to be a lot of public outcry about that part specifically," Sostaric said. "And when the bill got to the Senate Education Committee, lawmakers removed that from the larger education bill.”

The governor’s birth control bill has advanced. Gov. Kim Reynolds' bill that would give Iowans the opportunity to receive birth control from pharmacists without first going to a clinic had its first big discussion last week. Groups like the Family Planning Council of Iowa and Planned Parenthood support the effort. And it has bipartisan support, at least from some Republicans, who guided this legislation through its first step at the statehouse. “But anti-abortion groups aren’t happy,” Sostaric said. “They’re big supporters of Gov. Reynolds in general--but are at odds with her over this issue.”

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.
Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter