Why the mental health bills that just passed are a big deal

Peggy Huppert is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Governor Kim Reynolds signed two mental health bills on March 29 in an emotional ceremony in the capitol rotunda. I was one of the hundreds of legislators, lobbyists and advocates who witnessed the event.

The two bills are quite different. What they have in common, in addition to dealing with mental health and being signed into law on the same day, is that they passed both chambers of the Iowa legislature unanimously. That in itself is extraordinary.

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Iowa House Republicans prevent votes on gun restraining orders for mentally ill

Iowa House Republicans suppressed two attempts to consider legislation that would make it easier to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others because of severe mental health issues. Democratic State Representative Art Staed has vowed to keep trying to pass what he called “a vital tool” to help family members and law enforcement save lives.

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Mid-week open thread: Tragedies

Several recent tragedies in the Des Moines area have been on my mind this week. Last Friday, a body was found in Water Work Park, later identified as Richard Miles, a Iraq War veteran who had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after three deployments. He had sought in-patient help at the VA hospital in Des Moines on February 15, but was sent home with medication. He disappeared two days later. U.S. Senator Joni Ernst has written to the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs seeking a federal investigation into Miles’ case and more generally the mental health programs of the Veterans Affairs Central Iowa Health Care System.

After the jump I’ve posted a list of mental health resources available to veterans, as well as a timeline and statement that Miles’ friends released this week.

Two girls who attended Urbandale Middle School committed suicide within a week of each other. One was 12 years old and in sixth grade; the other 14 years old and in eighth grade. Police haven’t found evidence of bullying in the first case and are investigating the second case. The sixth-grader’s father has urged parents “to monitor their children’s social media activity and for others to speak out if they see anything unusual on a friend’s account.” I’ve enclosed more of his comments below.

Child psychiatrist Dr. Donner Dewdney encourages parents to watch closely for sign of depression in their children, and to talk to teens specifically about alternatives to suicide.

Here are some resources and hotline numbers for Iowans of any age who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Many resources for children or teenagers who have experienced the death of a friend or close relative are available here and here.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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