Mothers of emotional, mental disabled push Iowa lawmakers for more health funding

Parents, children face 20-month wait list for Medicaid waivers to seek treatment

Mike Wiser
Published: January 22 2014 | 5:03 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:31 am in

DES MOINES – Walmart “rages,” two-year waiting lists and imaginary dragons that seem all too real to a horrified child’s mind.

These are a few of the stories a group of mothers, mostly from the Waterloo area, who care for children with severe emotional and mental disabilities brought with them to the Iowa Capitol Wednesday to push for more mental health funding.

They call themselves the “Trauma Mamas.” They’re a loosely organized group of about 20 mothers who got to know each other via the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices. For the past two years, they have met monthly outside of those offices to discuss the joys and trials of raising children with these disabilities.

“Last year, (my daughter) was in the hospital because she saw bodies hanging from telephone poles and believed dragons were coming to get her,” said Alissa Tschetter-Siedschlaw, a mother of five children, four of whom have emotional and mental disabilities.

She had to send one child to a home in Wisconsin after being unable to outfit her home with the appropriate security measures. Separating mother and child, she said, was devastating for both.

Kim Jensen, a Trauma Mama from Cedar Falls, said taking care of the state’s 20-month waiting list for Medicaid waivers could mitigate some of the problems the families face. People who don’t otherwise qualify for Medicaid can apply for waivers to the rules. Getting children with psychiatric issues onto the program sooner could help pay for treatment and other needs the children have.

Donna Petersen, a Trauma Mama from Denver, said early treatment prevents later — and potentially more expensive — fixes, including prison.

State Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames, estimated it would take $8.7 million a year to eliminate the wait list for children’s mental health services and other Medicaid programs.

She said she intends to file legislation this year to do just that. She’s also looking at what it would cost for more training for school personnel and expand treatment options in Iowa.

“When you have 20 moms who just happened to run into each other that have this level of violence in their homes, think about the moms still in that community that we haven’t even begun to connect with,” Jensen said. “To us, that’s scary.”

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