Democratic gubernatorial and Senate candidates address Iowa’s mental health

Democratic challengers of Gov. Kim Reynolds and Senator Chuck Grassley pleaded Thursday for increased funding and access to mental health care.

The Iowa National Association of Social Workers, an organization of thousands of Iowa social workers, hosted the Des Moines Candidate Forum. The moderators focused the questions on labor shortages for social workers and the impact of the pandemic on mental health.

DeJear promotes ‘recovery’ of social workers

Only one candidate for governor spoke at Thursday’s forum: Deidre DeJear, a Democrat from Des Moines and former candidate for secretary of state.

Deidre DeJear is running for governor. (Photo courtesy of DeJear Campaign)

DeJear said mental health was a personal issue for her. She told the story of her mother, who died when DeJear was 8 years old. DeJear said she took advice after her mother died and worked with social workers and support teachers.

“It’s because of these teachers, it’s because of these social workers and my counselors that I stand here before you today,” she said. “I am who I am because of their impact in my life. “

Looking ahead, DeJear acknowledged the additional challenges COVID-19 has caused to the mental health of Iowans, and she advocated for better access to mental health programs across the state.

“We don’t even know how much this pandemic will affect our children, communities and families over the next three to five years,” she said, pleading for the state to use its surplus funds to improve health. mental. programs and create more access centers and mobile crisis clinics.

Regarding the labor shortage, DeJear stressed that the state must support its existing social workers, ensuring that they do not drown in school debt and that they are paid fairly.

“What I also want to do is make sure that we promote this role and elevate it, because it is so integral to the work that we do, and it impacts every aspect of our lives.” , she said.

Grassley’s Competitors Agree on Social Worker Debt Cancellation

Medical doctor Glenn Hurst and former state representative Bob Krause, both Democrats, also participated in the forum. They are vying to run against Grassley in 2022. Grassley and her better-known contenders, former Rep. Abby Finkenauer and Iowa Senator Jim Carlin, were not in attendance.

Dr. Glenn Hurst speaks at the Safe at School Sit-In on August 11, 2021, at the Iowa Capitol. (Screenshot of the live broadcast of the event)

Hurst and Krause were united on their holistic approach to mental health – increasing access to care statewide, especially in rural areas, and supporting struggling social workers.

Hurst spoke about his experience with the medical and mental health system as a rural physician and with the social work system as a foster parent. He pointed out that mental health is a medical condition – “brain chemistry issues” – that needs treatment, not something people can think of to get out of.

“We just have a system that doesn’t work,” Hurst said.

Hurst is a Medicare for All supporter, telling the public that a national health care system would improve overall access to care, especially for people with mental health issues.

“Every person in this country should be able to access care, when they need it and wherever they are,” he said.

Regarding the labor shortage, Hurst identified expensive education requirements and low reimbursement as the main concerns. In the US Senate, Hurst said he would advocate for debt cancellation, universal health insurance and expanding the benefits of the CARES Act so employers can make student loan repayments.

Former Iowa Rep. Bob Krause spoke at a National Association of Social Workers forum on mental health. (Screenshot of the NASW live event)

Krause began his appearance by referring to the insurgency of January 6 last year: he said that former President Donald Trump had created a “cult” which amounted to “the most serious mental health crisis of the history of the United States ”. He described the priorities related to partisan issues in Washington: investigating the events of January 6, expanding the Supreme Court, passing a franchise law, removing filibuster, removing “big money” from politics and introducing term limits.

“I think we have to save democracy in America, or we’ll have nothing else to deal with,” he said.

On the issue of mental health, Krause spoke of his experience as chairman of the Veterans National Recovery Center, an advocacy group for servicemen struggling to re-acclimatize to civilian life. Krause noted that the state has a large surplus that could be used to bolster the mental health system, rather than for further tax cuts. He also advocated for the cancellation of the debt of mental health professionals.

“There are big holes in the system, and this is one of them,” Krause said of the labor shortage.


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