Disability Rights Iowa, Children’s Rights, the National Health Law Program, and Ropes & Gray, LLP have filed a complaint against the state, alleging that Iowa is denying Medicaid-eligible children their legal entitlement to mental health care.
The case was filed on behalf of Medicaid-eligible children under the age of 21 who have major mental health disorders that require intense home and community-based services in order for them to live successfully at home with their family or caregivers. Without them, these children are at risk of being separated from their communities and placed in institutions unnecessarily.
The lawsuit claims that Iowa manages an inadequate, inaccessible, and dysfunctional mental health system for these children and youth, while receiving significant federal Medicaid funding for that purpose, and that the state is supposed to provide services such as intensive care coordination, intensive in-home therapeutic services, and crisis response services, but fails to do so.
The complaint is being filed against Kelly Garcia, the director of the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. According to a 2022 report from Mental Health America, 41,000 kids aged 12 to 17 in Iowa (16.7%) experienced at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. In the previous year, around 32,000 youth (13.5%) experienced severe depression. Additionally, according to the research, roughly half of children with depression in the state haven’t received services.
Mental health services are especially important for those with disabilities. According to a study published in The Scientific World Journal, mental health problems are common in children with Cerebral Palsy or other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Research showed that 40 to 50 percent of school-aged children with Cerebral Palsy have emotional and behavioral challenges. One out of every two children with CP meets the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis as well.
I have struggled with my mental health for a long time. I first began seeing a therapist when I was in elementary school. I never felt like I fit in while growing up.
However, my mental health worsened in 2019. I was frustrated because I didn’t want to attend college classes or do much of anything. I was crying daily and couldn’t control my emotions. In 2020, I began taking an antidepressant. I slowly felt like myself again, and I am so grateful I had support when I needed it.
Everyone deserves access to mental health care regardless of age or disability. I hope disabled people understand how much they are loved and valued. They are worthy regardless of their physical abilities, mental health conditions, or intellectual disabilities.
Bjorgaas, H. M., Elgen, I., Boe, T., & Hysing, M. (2013, April 3). Mental health in children with cerebral palsy: Does screening capture the complexity? The Scientific World Journal
Retrieved from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2013/468402/
Ramm, Michaela. “Lawsuit Accuses Iowa of ‘Longstanding Failure’ to Provide Kids with Mental Health Services.” The Des Moines Register, Register Media, 6 Jan. 2023, https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2023/01/06/groups-accuse-iowa-of-failing-to-address-kids-mental-health-needs/69785335007/.
Simmons, Taj. “Lawsuit against Iowa Claims Failures in Children’s Mental Health Care.” Who 13, Nexstar Media Group. , 6 Jan. 2023, https://who13.com/news/lawsuit-against-iowa-claims-failures-in-childrens-mental-health-care/.