In 2005, I was asked why I would want to run for the state Senate. I said, “If I ran it would be to fix the mental health system in Iowa.” I was quickly told, “Nobody runs to do that.”

Well I ran to do it. And, I have been working on improving the system in Iowa and in neighboring states ever since.

That decision to run has led me on a very interesting and challenging journey through the ins and outs of mental health policy. From the lawmaker perspective, to the rule writer, to a provider and a lobbyist, I have seen the issue from many angles and learned to speak about it in various partisan language to move the ball forward.

Government systems do not build or change overnight. Many people have worked tirelessly through the years advocating, serving on boards and committees, writing workgroup reports, hosting town halls, and raising the issue in the public domain.

When I began 14 years ago, no one talked about mental health in Iowa, at least not publicly. Now, it polls in Iowa as one of the most important issues facing our state. I am thankful to have played a small part in beating that drum and driving that message.

Mental health issues are not partisan. Like healthcare, it matters to everyone. Not everyone agrees on the language to use to explain it, the causes of it, or even the treatment. But one thing we do agree on, is that we all know someone in our family or a friend who struggles and we want to help.

That is where the idea of a blog about mental health in Iowa comes from. That voice in my head that tells me that I have learned a lot on this journey. And, I can help others find their way to treatment if needed, to resources if necessary, and to answers if required. I want to be part of that.

This blog will strive to break apart the details of complicated legislation and rules into pieces that everyone can understand. It will focus on answers for people. Like where do you go for help if you live in rural Iowa? Or, what kind of help should I expect to be available regardless of where I live?

At times, it may ask you to get involved. Or you may be asked to call your legislator. Or you can send an email. We are all in this together. The only way a system improves is with sunlight and accountability.

My goal is to shed light on this issue in hopes that you will join me in holding our elected officials accountable to deliver on their campaign promises.

Each week, I will publish a new article that breaks down a piece of policy and asks for your input. I look forward to the journey ahead. No matter how far we’ve come, there are plenty of miles to travel.

Discussion Question:

What information would you find useful as I begin this work?