Senate education bill seeks to explore school-based mental health services

TherapyBy Bob Eschliman


A bill currently being considered in an Iowa Senate subcommittee would create a pilot program to explore school-based mental health services provided by area education agencies.

Senate File 430, which is a successor to Senate File 281 proposed by state Sen. Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids), would appropriate $2.5 million to the Iowa Department of Education for next fiscal year. Those funds would be used to provide grants to the AEAs to provide school-based mental health services through partnerships with local mental health providers.

Among the services to be provided under the proposed legislation are:

  • mental health counseling,
  • suicide prevention counseling, and
  • referrals for those students who need “more intense mental health counseling.”

The DOE is required to distribute the funds “as equitably as possible” while also providing for “maximization of local funding for the provision of mental health services.” If approved, the department is also tasked under the bill with evaluating the pilot program, using its own evaluation criteria, and to report its findings and recommendations to the governor and General Assembly by Jan. 1, 2017.

SF 430 has the support of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Coalition for Family and Children’s Services in Iowa, Father Flanagan’s Boys Home, the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association, the Area Education Agencies of Iowa, and the Iowa Psychiatric Society. It also has the support of the Iowa Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the Iowa Mental Health Counselors Association, the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa, Rural School Advocates of Iowa, Easter Seals Iowa, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa Medical Society, the Iowa School Counselors Association, and the Iowa School Nurses Association.