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    February 7, 2020

    Additional Mental Health Funding
    Farm Bankruptcies Double in Iowa
    Dyslexia Taskforce Bill Introduced
    House Committee Advances Flood Recovery Help


    Additional Mental Health Funding

    A bill designed to draw down more federal matching Medicaid dollars for mental health has passed the House Human Resources Committee unanimously. This bill will direct the Department of Human Services (DHS) to get permission from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to get federal matching dollars for reimbursement to facilities considered institutions for mental diseases (IMDs). Currently, this Medicaid reimbursement is not available for individuals between the ages of 21-64 at these facilities. This changed in 2018 when CMS said that states could apply to cover short-term stays in IMDs with over 16 beds for individuals with a severe mental illness (SMI) and a severe emotional disturbance (SED).

    Mental health services have been underfunded across the state, and this waiver may be able to fill some of the gaps in care. However, this is just a band aid because the stateís mental health regions are being asked to fund most of the services without receiving much financial assistance from the state. In order to truly make meaningful and lasting changes to the system, it needs to be fully-funded.

    House Democrats will continue working to ensure every Iowan has access to quality mental health services. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.


    Farm Bankruptcies Double in Iowa

    Farm bankruptcies in the US are rising at the quickest rate since the Great Recession, up nearly 20% in the last year. In Iowa alone, farm bankruptcies nearly doubled in Iowa over the last year. Wisconsin was the hardest hit by bankruptcies over the last year as the Trump Administrationís trade war took a particularly hard toll on the dairy industry.

    These losses come during the Trump Administrationís protracted trade wars and tariff fights, which has led to record farm debt and instability in markets. They come despite the fact the Trump Administration directly paid farmers $28 billion over the last two years to offset the damage of those policies. That is more than double the amount of the auto bailout during the Great Recession. Without this bailout to offset the administrationís own damaging proposals, the rate of bankruptcies would have likely been much higher.


    Dyslexia Taskforce Bill Introduced

    For two years, Iowaís Dyslexia Task Force has met to develop strategies to improve the education of students with dyslexia in Iowa. Last week, House File 2148 was introduced to address the recommendations made by that task force, which includes forming a professional learning framework for all teacher preparation institutions.

    The legislation will also require the Department of Education to hire an employee to help create the framework, address dyslexia learning in the classroom, and require online training for teachers that is already developed by the Iowa Reading Research Center. The bill also creates an advanced teacher endorsement in dyslexia.

    Dyslexia is a common neurologically-based language processing disorder in which people develop issues with reading, building vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Children without appropriate interventions struggle to reach their full academic potential, while also suffering from stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem. The detailed dyslexia taskforce report can be found at: https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/DyslexiaTaskForceReportFinal_11_15_19.pdf.


    House Committee Advances Flood Recovery Help

    As Iowans across the state continue to deal with the damages from last seasonís flooding, a House Committee has approved $20 million in flood relief for the current year. The money will be appropriated to the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

    The help will go to continue the 35 projects that are happening throughout the state at a cost of approximately $160 million. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government will be providing an additional $90 million. It is undetermined at this time if the $20 million appropriation will be enough to cover the remaining projects. Projects include flood mitigation, housing recovery, levee improvements, and property acquisition.

    This additional investment will be distributed by the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board that was created in 2012 from the Flood Recovery Fund.