Des Moines – Today, the State of Iowa agreed to an interim settlement in a lawsuit brought on behalf of Medicaid-eligible children with serious mental and behavioral health needs, which asserted that Iowa administers an inadequate mental health system that does not provide children and youth with legally required services. To address these decades long issues, the State of Iowa has launched major transformations through the Mental Health and Disability Regional structure to provide core services to children in Iowa and will continue to improve the state’s mental health system specifically for all Iowans. The terms of this agreement will strengthen the work already underway and shift to increase oversight in the behavioral health system to ensure adequate access to services for families and children.

 “We commend Governor Reynolds and her administration for recognizing the unmet needs of children with serious mental health needs in Iowa and their right to essential mental health care services,” said Catherine Johnson, the Executive Director of Disability Rights Iowa, one of the groups representing the Plaintiffs. “Her commitment to take the steps necessary to provide them with the intensive home and community-based services they need, we believe will allow our children to remain at home with the families or caregivers best able to love and care for them.” Plaintiffs are also represented by Children’s Rights, the National Health Law Program and Ropes & Gray. 

Over the course of the next several months, the state will develop an implementation plan that will bolster and reinforce the significant actions already taken in recent years to improve the mental health system in Iowa. The plan will include defining clear access points for behavioral health services, including crisis and in-home services. The plan will also describe how the state will oversee adequate access and update case management supports to ensure children and families are more successful in the community and at school. 

“Iowa HHS has spent the past several years honing its work to better support children and families. This demonstrated commitment from across our agency is especially true for our populations in need of significant support. The Iowa Medicaid team has led a multi-year effort to transform this system that includes bringing individuals and families to the table in a meaningful way. These changes cement the work already in progress and we are proud to pave the way forward,” said Iowa HHS Director Kelly Garcia.