Senator Kirsten Gillibrand rolled out a new plan today to create School-Based Health Centers that will provide children in rural Iowa and across the nation with mental health care services that are currently lacking.
A few Iowa schools have already tried to launch similar programs, but they aren’t fully funded and they don’t necessarily meet every child’s needs.
Indianola brought in licensed therapists as early as 2017, but the district had some issues with keeping their providers early on.
The district has since become one of more than 50 Iowa schools to begin working with Integrative Counseling Services, which is a for-profit company and the only local therapy option for most of the students in those 50-plus districts.
In Waverly, an outreach program called Pathways tries to provide students with sufficient mental health care services. The group includes six social workers who travel to 15 school districts in Iowa.
But there’s a catch — more than 100 kids need treatment in the Waverly area alone.
The Clear Creek Amana school district recently became one of the first in Iowa to add full-time licensed therapists as staff members (not contracted labor), but the district told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that funding the positions is a frequent barrier.
Gillibrand released a plan today that states she will create School-Based Health Centers that will have the funding and means to help children and adolescents nationwide receive primary, preventative, and mental and behavioral health care and health education.
The plan also promises to complement those school-based mental health services with a goal to create positive environments within schools. Her plan will promote the Every Student Succeeds Act, which uses climate as a non-academic quality indicator.
Gillibrand has heard stories about the need for mental health care services from people all across the country.
“There is not one family in this country that isn’t concerned about mental health to some extent,” Gillibrand said in a release. “But for all of these conversations I’ve had, they’re almost always whispered. People are too afraid of the stigma to voice them loudly. As president, I will break down those barriers.”
It includes de-stigmatizing the need for mental health care services by creating peer-to-peer programs and by offering services that are currently nonexistent in rural areas.
Gillibrand will create a National Health Service Corps., which places primary health care providers in the nation’s most under-served rural communities and will support programs that develop the national health care work force such as the Rural Physician Training Grant program.
“No one should have to suffer because there just isn’t access to any treatment near them,” Gillibrand said in the release. “In America’s rural communities, young people in particular face too many barriers to health care already, and it is unacceptable that so many are being discouraged from receiving treatment because of who they are or what they believe.”
She also proposes non-traditional methods to tackling the mental health care crisis, such as offering peer-support programs.
According to Gillibrand, a peer education model, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to seek support, would connect those who are seeking treatment with a peer who understands their background.
Gillibrand said she will make sure those non-traditional treatments are given proper reimbursement rates so that high costs aren’t barriers to anyone who is looking for help.
“If we truly believe that health care is a right and not a privilege, then access to quality mental health treatments cannot be up for debate. It’s time for mental health to be taken as seriously as physical health,” Gillibrand said in the release. “I’ve spent my career fighting these important fights and standing up for families just as I would my own. As President, I’ll deliver on this issue.”
by Paige Godden