After years of bipartisan work, a bill that begins the process of reforming the mental health system in Iowa has been signed into law.

To fill critical gaps in the system, the new law will allow more Iowans to access mental health services and also provides several new choices to patients and their physicians in determining what type of assistance they may need.

New access centers will provide immediate short-term assessments to people who do not need inpatient psychiatric treatment. Intensive Residential Service Homes are comprehensive, 24 hour facilities to coordinate community living services for persons with serious mental illnesses. Assertive Community Treatment Teams will provide flexible treatment for individuals who are transferring out of an inpatient program.

While the bill is a great first step to improving the system, many Iowans and lawmakers are concerned it does not include any additional investment from the state, causing a bigger strain on existing services and resources.

In fact, the Governor recently signed a bill that cut $4.3 million from the Department of Human Services, the agency that oversees much of this work. The mental health regions are being asked to fund most of the bill without receiving any sort of financial assistance. In order to truly make meaningful and lasting changes to the system, it needs to be fully-funded.