Iowa delegation tries again to address military suicides (updated)

UPDATE: The U.S. Senate passed the Sgt. Ketchum Rural Veterans Mental Health Act of 2021 by unanimous consent on June 24, and President Joe Biden signed it into law on June 30. Original post follows.

From the earliest Memorial Day observances organized by freed slaves following the Civil War, this holiday has focused on remembering military service members who died in wars. More than 26,700 Iowans have died in wartime service, with the Civil War accounting for nearly half of the fatalities.

Far too many Americans with military backgrounds die by their own hands. Hundreds of active-duty troops and more than 6,000 veterans take their own lives every year. That death toll exceeds the total U.S. military fatalities in Iraq from 2003 to 2020.

Iowa’s members of Congress have tried again this spring to improve mental health services for veterans. Unlike in previous years, legislation named after Sergeant Brandon Ketchum made it through the U.S. House and now awaits action in the Senate.

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Data show no clear trend for Iowa suicides during pandemic

While defending her approach to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Governor Kim Reynolds repeatedly asserted that Iowa was seeing an “uptick” in suicides, and listed suicides among the mental health problems that were “exponentially increasing.”

Preliminary data on Iowa deaths by suicide in 2020 paint a more complex picture. An estimated 557 Iowans took their own lives last year, the highest number recorded in two decades. However, many of the increased deaths occurred during January and February, before COVID-19 was identified in Iowa and well before any restrictions were imposed to slow the spread of the novel virus.

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Five things that are not "fairness"

Governor Kim Reynolds thrilled conservatives when she announced on Fox News last week that she wants to sign a bill banning transgender youth from competing on sports teams not matching their gender assigned at birth.

Defending the discriminatory policy during a news conference on May 5, Reynolds claimed five times that concerns about “fairness” are driving her commitment to address the issue.

This mean-spirited play to the GOP base has several dimensions. None of them are grounded in fairness.

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Randy Feenstra is at the center of Iowa's failed policies

This commentary is the collective work of three Iowa Democratic Party county chairs: Brett W. Copeland in Dickinson County, Mitch Day in Clay County, and Laura Hoffman in Emmet County. -promoted by Laura Belin

State Senator Randy Feenstra has promised Iowans that he will be riding shotgun to President Donald Trump’s second term agenda. His devastating legislative record on health care and mental health shows that he will make the perfect Congressional lackey.

Feenstra has been at the center of the worst ideas in the Iowa Senate. He voted against bills to improve oversight of Iowa’s Medicaid program and helped orchestrate a plan to allow Iowans to buy junk health insurance policies. He pushed to end block grants that ensured counties could provide decent mental health services, fund law enforcement, and keep taxes low.

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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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