Iowa should bolster, not remove, mental-health care at Eldora

Center Focus

Iowa should bolster, not remove, mental-health care at Eldora


The Center opposes a House bill that opens the door to fundamental changes in the nature of services at the state training school at Eldora. Instead of directing the facility to develop programs focusing on “appropriate skill development, treatment, and rehabilitation”—a juvenile-justice approach—HF 2399 directs it to instead help youth “recognize accountability for delinquent behavior by confronting and eliminating delinquent norms, criminal thinking, and anti-social behavior”—a tact much more line with the adult prison system. 

Officials with the Department of Human Service—the only organization registered in favor of the bill as of Monday morning—have said they don’t expect it would lead to marked changes in kinds of services currently in place. Eldora does offer counseling, but has no comprehensive mental health program, and is not considered by the state to be mental health facility. 

Despite those facts, many of the youth there suffer from mental health and drug addiction issues. The facility has repeatedly been singled out in recent years for failing to adequately provide treatment and rehabilitation, including mental health services, to the boys in residence. 

The change, removing language on diagnosis, evaluation and treatment, would put Iowa in increasingly limited company. As reporter Clark Kauffman noted in a Des Moines Register piece Thursday, “The proposal is unusual in that most states are moving away from a corrections-based model of juvenile justice and toward one that’s focused more on treatment.”

It should go without saying that eliminating requirements to provide meaningful mental-health services does not eliminate actual mental-health needs. What is needed instead is adequate funding to provide comprehensive mental health and addiction treatment for youth at Eldora. 

Having passed both subcommittee and committee, the bill is headed to the House floor for a vote. Rep. Mary Mascher (Iowa City) has submitted an amendment (H-8112) to restore the treatment and rehabilitation mission of Eldora. There is not currently a companion bill in the Senate. Please contact your representative, and ask them help protect youth place in Eldora by opposing HF 2399.  

03/05/2018 4:02 PM |Add a comment
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