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Iowa Social Policy & Advocacy


2017 Public Comment Meetings on Medicaid Dates and Locations:


December 14, 2017 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Des Moines Polk County River Place Room 1

2339 Euclid Avenue

Des Moines, IA 50310





Action Alerts

UPDATED 4-20-17 - Mental Health/Disability Services Property Tax Levy

Mental Health/Disability Services Property Tax Levy passes in Senate, to be debated in House today (4-20-17).



EARLY A.M. ACTION ALERT! Mental Health Disability Services Funding


Yesterday, (Wednesday) SF 504 was approved 46-4 in the Senate; it has now been introduced in the House.  The House has a companion bill (HF 650), and it is anticipated that this bill will be amended to mirror the Senate bill.

The good news: The bills will allow the counties to pool their caps within in their Mental Health Disability Service Regions.  This means that larger counties will be able to raise their overall MHDS tax levies and contribute more money to their regions, which will then allow many less populated counties to LOWER their the property taxes designated to MHDS.   

The not so good news:  Neither of these bills removes the overall cap on the MHDS property tax levy across the state, and neither of them provides a long-term solution to mental health funding for Iowa.

While the bills do provide a short-term step toward meeting the needs of mental health consumers through the new cost-sharing equalization within regions, this is not a long-term fix.  We will have to revisit appropriate funding levels for mental health disability services yet again in 2018 and likely beyond. 

We expect the bill to come to a vote in the House today (Thursday). You can contact your representative by looking here for their name and information -

Please ask your representative to

1)     support the amendment to match HF 650 to SF 504

2)     then support HF 650

3)     understand that this is simply a short-term fix and will do NOTHING to increase funding for MHDS services, even though many County Supervisors were willing to do so

4)     be willing to work on real solutions for increasing availability and quality of appropriate mental health disability services across the state of Iowa.



Additional Background


Earlier this month,


  • the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill making it easier for people to carry guns (even at the Capitol and in courthouses) and use them.
  • a young man suffering from severe mental illness is alleged to have killed three family members in Bondurant.


Legislators tell us they are constantly being asked to “do something” to improve the mental health system. And yet, they have done little or nothing this session to improve mental health services in the state.  Here is a chance for them to do something meaningful that won’t cost the state any money. 


But – there is one big obstacle – the Farm Bureau.  The Farm Bureau is concerned about rising property taxes, and that is understandable. But, the MHDS tax has not increased since 1996 – what program would be able to meet the needs of a growing population with 1996 funding levels? And to reiterate – the vast majority of counties with fewer people will be able to DECREASE their property tax levies for MHDS services.   


If the legislature were to lift the statewide and county caps on this tax, the VAST MAJORITY, approximately 73 out of 99, counties would not have to raise their MHDS property tax levy AT All.  They could LOWER it.  


Legislative switchboards are open from 8 am until 5 pm on days that the legislature is in session.


Senate switchboard



House switchboard



Here is a link to an article on the Senate subcommittee meeting on the MH/DS property tax levy that appeared in the Des Moines Register



As you may know, in Iowa MH/DS are provided by the MH/DS Regions and are paid for by a specific county MH/DS property tax levy. Now that these services are regionalized, some counties are paying more than their fair share for their region’s services, while other counties are paying less than they should, based on the population of their county.


The problem

The cap on this levy is frozen by the State at 1996 dollars.  This means that individual counties have not been able to increase their budgets for MH/DS services since 1996.


This is a problem for the more urban counties because their populations have grown and they are not allowed by the state law to increase the amount of money they collect.


This is also a problem for rural counties, particularly those that are in regions with more urban counties, because they are providing funding to their regions that are supporting services provided in the more urban counties.


The solution

The Iowa Association of Counties, the National Association of Social Workers- Iowa Chapter, NAMI – Iowa, law enforcement officials and many other organizations support allowing Counties, if needed, to increase this specific property tax levy (the vast majority of the 99 counties do not need to do this at this time).


This tax should be decided by individual counties – allowing for local control – not by the State of Iowa.


MH/DS regions provide services that are NOT paid for by Medicaid, like housing and transportation, create a safety net for some of our most vulnerable Iowans. 


Counties have traditionally provided these services to their residents.  This allows the regions to determine where there are gaps in services in their region and fill those gaps.


Follow the link below for a hand out on this issue you can share with your state legislators:




Follow the link below for deeper background on this issue:


CLICK HERE for additional background


Please feel free to call the NASW office should you have any questions





Fail First bill headed to the Governor’s desk for signature.


If you have not already, please reach out to Governor Branstad and ask him to sign HF 233 into law. 


Sample Script for Contacting Governor’s Office

·        Your name

·        Who you represent – for example:  I am a constituent; I am a patient with (arthritis, cancer, diabetes, psoriasis, etc. etc. etc.), I am a social worker, I am a social work student

·        Why you are calling

o   I have experienced step therapy (or I know someone who has, or I have clients who do)

o   We were thrilled to hear that the Iowa House voted to concur on the Senate’s amendments to House File 233 on April 12th. 

o   Similar legislation was passed in Indiana and signed into law by then Governor Pence

o   This bill will allow healthcare providers decide what drug the patients should take

o   I urge Governor Branstad to sign this important patient protection bill into law!


Ways to Reach out to the Governor’s Office


Web form to send your thoughts to the Governor:


by phone: 515-281-5211


by Twitter:

Governor Terry Branstad

Twitter Handle:  @TerryBranstad


Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds

Twitter Handle:  @KimReynoldsIA


For a handwritten letter use this address:

1007 E. Grand Ave.

Des Moines, Iowa 50319


Special thanks to those who attended and spoke up at the House subcommittee on Fail First during our Lobby Day!  Your voices made a an impact on those legislators!




Click below for a new resource from the Association of Social Work Boards on the

importance of professional regulation



Thank you so much for all of your advocacy!  While it seems that the legislature is with us, we have heard that the Governor believes that social workers specifically do not need to be licensed.  Please help us educate him and the public on this issue.


Please consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to celebrate social work month and educate folks about what professional social workers do.  


You can


Write a letter to the editor (LTE) to your hometown paper.  Some of our colleagues in Clarinda write a series of articles for their hometown paper every year for Social Work month!


Tell your story!  Share with folks why it is important for social workers to be licensed. 

Explain to people why you are a social worker and why your professional training helps you help others.


Respond to NASW IA Ethics Committee Chair Bruce Buchanan’s Iowa View Piece, which is scheduled to appear in the 3-15-17 print edition of the Des Moines Register:

Here’s a link on how to submit a Letter to the Des Moines Register:



Here were two great example of Letters to the Editor in today’s Des Moines Register:


Bryon Little is an NASW member and the co-treasurer of Iowa PACE.


LTE author Ian Kearns is actually a licensed marriage and family therapist, but was kind enough to include social workers in his letter.


Here’s a nice resource from our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists on how to write a good letter to the editor:


And another from the NEA:


Here’s some information on Social Work Month:

Click here for talking points on licensure

Thank you for all you do for your profession and the people you serve!




First – THANK YOU for all of your advocacy work over the last two weeks. Because of you, we were able to defeat HSB 138 and, for now, retain licensure for social workers and many other professionals in the state of Iowa.  You demonstrated your ability to use your social work advocacy skills in a very meaningful way.  We hope you continue this important advocacy work for the rest of this legislative session and beyond!

The NASW Iowa Chapter Board voted in November to have Gun Safety and Gun Violence as one of our top priority legislative issues.  As you may have heard, HF 517 (formerly known as HSB 133) is an expansive bill that covers several different firearm related topics.  Compromises have been made on a couple of segments of the bill.

However, we still have grave concerns about the Stand Your Ground element.

Please thank Rep. Windschitl and other legislators for their willingness to listen and make adjustments to this bill.  NASW-IA will be working in coalition with several other groups on this important matter.  Ask them why we need the “Stand your Ground” portion of the bill when Iowa already has extremely strong laws that support property owners’ rights to defend their property with firearms. 


Follow the link below to a list of tomorrow’s legislative forums.  These are an excellent opportunity to tell your state senators and representatives what is on your mind.


If you can’t make it to a forum, you can always email your state senators and representatives.  It is a pretty effective way to reach most of them.  Find your State lawmakers with the link below:


Thank you so much for all you do!









List of town hall meetings:


CLICK HERE for an updated calendar


Or call or write your state legislator. Find their contact information here: 


CLICK HERE to find your state legislators



UPDATED 3-2-17


Please ask your state reps and senators to SUPPORT the Fail First bills.


The Problem


What is Step Therapy or “Fail First?”

Fail First requirements are used by health plans to control the order and use of prescription drugs. A patient may be required to try, and then fail on lower-cost or older drugs selected by their health plan before coverage is granted for the drug prescribed by the patient’s health care provider.  This is particularly frustrating and dangerous when a patient has been successfully treated with one medication, but a health plan demands that the patient “fail first” on medications that the patient has already tried without success.


Fail First protocols can vary widely. An example of this is seen in the number of “steps” a patient must cycle through or the duration a patient must try the medication selected by the health plan before they can access their health care provider’s first choice of treatment.


Fail First protocols limit a health care provider’s ability to tailor care to individual patient needs. For patients living with serious or chronic illnesses, including severe mental illness, prolonging ineffective treatment (and delaying access to the right treatment) may result in possible irreversible progression of disease, loss of function, and adverse effects, which ultimately leads to increases in unnecessary health care costs with patients back to see their health care provider, ER visits, hospitalizations and other costs associated when patients are not well.


What HF 233 & SSB 1072 will ensure:

·        Fail First protocols are based on widely-accepted clinical guidelines so that medicine – not cost – dictate requirements.

·        That the exceptions process for Fail First protocols is transparent and accessible to patients and health care providers.

·        Common sense guardrails to fail first protocols to enable health care providers and patients to override a health plan’s fail first protocols when it is medically appropriate for a patient, including if a patient is stable and doing well on a prescription drug prescribed by their health care provider, the required fail first drug could cause an adverse reaction, including physical or mental harm and is expected to be ineffective, a patient has previously tried and failed the required fail first drug, and the required fail first drug is not in the best interest of the patient based on medical necessity.




We anticipate that House File 233 will be heading to the House Floor for a vote.  We need as many calls and emails to all Representatives as possible. 

o   The full list of Iowa representatives can be found here (list also includes emails): 




  o   If you receive any feedback from your representative, please call or email the NASW Iowa Chapter Office and share this information 515-277-1117 or


TAKE ACTION –SSB 1072 has been assigned a subcommittee


Please contact Senator Segebart and THANK him for introducing SSB 1072 and assigning it to a subcommittee.



·        Senator Greene (Chair)

o   Legislative Email:

o   Home Phone:  (319) 750-6579

·        Senator Mathis

o   Legislative Email:

o   Home Phone:  (319) 361-1725

·        Senator Shipley

o   Legislative E-mail:

o   Home Phone:  (712) 785-3583


Federal Social Policy & Advocacy


Federal Action Alerts 


Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015

S. 2173 & HR 3712



Please contact Senators Chuck Grassley & Senator Joni Ernst and ask them to co-sponsor

S. 2173 - the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015


Talking points: 


The Improving Access to Mental Health Act will benefit seniors and others on Medicare by

o   increasing the number of mental health providers in Iowa (and across the country)– and as you well know, our population is growing older and will need additional mental and behavioral health specialists. 

o   providing continuity of care so that Medicare beneficiaries can continue to access their clinical social workers, even after entering a skilled nursing facility.

o   allowing clinical social workers to provide all of the services that they are qualified to provide, including Health and Behavior Assessments and Intervention Services.


The bill will equalize Medicare reimbursement rates for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician providers, like physician assistants and nurse practitioners. 


o   This will improve access to social work services for those served by Medicare, as more social workers would be willing to serve as Medicare providers.

o   This will free up the time of psychiatrists, of which we have a severe shortage in the state of Iowa, allowing them to serve their role as prescribers, by increasing the number of clinical social workers who will accept Medicare for mental health services.



If you have time for one call or email - please contact Senator Grassley, as he is on the Finance Committee, which is where this bill will be assigned. 



or go to Senator Grassley's website for additional contact information for his other offices across the state.

Click below for

Sen. Grassley's contact Info.


Ask him to co-sponsor S. 2173


If you have time for two calls or emails, please contact Senator Ernst



Click below for local

Contact information for Senator Ernst


Ask her to co-sponsor S. 2173


for more information on this bill, click below: 

Improving Access to Mental Health Act


NASW Social Policy Statements
Each General Assembly Cycle, the Social Policies Committee reviews current policy statements and determines the need for revisions or additions to the priorities.  The committee strives to develop policy statements that reflect the issues facing social workers and their clients in Iowa as well as issues that appear to be of importance at the time. 


NASW, Iowa Chapter 2015-16 Social Policy Statements

2015-16 Access to Family Planning (Full statement)

Access to Family Planning 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Care for Juvenile Females in the Justice System (Full statement)

Care of Juvenile Females in the Justice System 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Child Mental Health Reform (Full statement)

Child Mental Health Reform 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Child Welfare(Full statement)

Child Welfare 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Economic Disparity (Full statement)

Economic Disparity 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Electoral Issues (Full statement)

Electoral Issues 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Healthcare Reform (Full statement)

Healthcare Reform 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Immigration Policy (Full statement)

Immigration Policy 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Marriage Equality (Full statement)

Marriage Equality 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Older Iowans (Full statement)

Older Iowans 1 Page Summary

2015-16 Social Work Reinvestment (Full statement)

Social Work Reinvestment 1 Page Summary


NASW, Iowa Chapter 2014-15 Social Policy Statements

2013-14 Access to Family Planning and Abortion Services
2013-14 Child Mental Health Reform
2013-14 Child Welfare Services
2013-14 Civil Marriage
2013-14 Family Investment Program (FIP) Basic Grant
2013-14 Fiscal Policy
2013-14 Health Care Reform
2013-14 Immigration Policy and Undocumented Persons in Iowa
2013-14 Older Iowans
2013-14 Services for Veterans
2013-14 Social Work Reinvestment
2013-14 Voter Rights

Advocacy is defined by many as arguing or pleading for a cause, whether a person, group, or policy. Advocacy is key to the role social workers play within their jobs and their communities. The Iowa Chapter develops legislative priorities on an annual basis reflecting the needs of those we serve society as a whole. NASW encourages members to become involved in advocacy efforts on many different levels.


Social Work Reinvestment
The Iowa Chapter is committed to advocating on behalf of the social work profession in Iowa.  To learn more about the Chapter's activities surrounding Social Work Reinvestment, CLICK HERE.

DONATE TODAY!!!  The work of the Chapter cannot be done without your help!  Consider a donation to the SWRI efforts in Iowa. 

You can send your donation to:

NASW, Iowa Chapter
Attn.:  SWRI Efforts
1620 Pleasant Street
Suite 212
Des Moines, IA  50314

Helpful Links:

Temporary Driver's License Legislation for Undocumented Latino Immigrants.  Written by Northwestern College Students under the supervision and revision of Dr. Valeria Stokes, LISW 

NASW-IA Chapter 2014 Social Work Labor Force Study

Iowa General Assembly
Find My Legislator
Register to Vote
Iowa Legislative Day

CLICK HERE to join the NASW or renew your membership today.

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