The Iowa OCA is hard at work for the citizens of Iowa. Peers and their families and loved ones are calling and e-mailing and writing letters asking for assistance. These requests come from the 1-855-OCA Iowa telephone line or referred by NAMI Iowa’s phones and website. The Iowa OCA launched its website and Facebook page in December 2016. With more diligent advertising, we hope to increase our average of 25 requests per month. Many of these requests are challenging. Judy Davis and David Lange try to provide accurate information. Judy and David are making new friends for the Iowa OCA as they search for answers for the requests.
Phone and Facebook requests are not the only thing that the Iowa OCA does. In December, Director Charles Palmer called the NAMI Iowa and made a request. He wanted us to set up two focus groups on “Complex Needs”. One was to work with peers and their families and loved ones to dialogue with him regarding situations where they experienced barriers to receiving services. He asked that the individual not being served adequately be an adult with a severe and persistent mental illness who has a co-occurring diagnosis of substance abuse and/or intellectual disability and were physically aggressive. WOW, that was an assignment and please have the group ready to meet in two weeks. OCA Director, Judy Davis looked through the OCA calls and found five such families. Four were eager to tell their stories to Director Palmer along with three other family members. NAMI Director Peggy Huppert led the dialogue and reported that the family members were outstanding!
The second group consisted of peer support specialists from around the state. Keeping the number to a manageable number was a challenge since many people wanted to participate and Director Palmer wanted a small group.
The specialists were so articulate that Director Palmer requested they keep working together and present him with their top recommendations about how to improve and expand their work in Iowa.
- The Department of Human Services (DHS) holds collaborative meetings among leaders from a number of interested in discussing the expansion of the Peer and Family Support workforce.
- Expand opportunities for Peer Support and Family Support to improve and build upon the existing continuum of services in the community and support the MHDS Regions to meet core service requirements.
- Change the requirements for Medicaid Billable Peer Support.
- Change the specific billing for Integrated Health Homes (IHH).
The third group focused on the intersection of criminal justice and mental health. Peggy Huppert and Craig Matzke, NAMI Iowa’s Board President, put together a group of ten people who focused on the challenges law enforcement faces in dealing with people with serious mental illness. Again the dialogue was robust and impressive.
A number of recommendations came from that group, which Director Palmer will be presenting to the governor and legislators. A follow-up meeting is being held to determine how to make the “bed finder” system work better for those needing an inpatient placement.
NAMI Iowa and the Iowa OCA are a good fit. David Lange, Iowa OCA’s own Peer Support Manager, is fond of saying that while NAMI’s signature programs are not the first response to an OCA request, they are often the second or third offering to individuals looking for information and support. It is a good partnership.
What’s the work ahead of the Iowa OCA? We are going to join NAMI Iowa in their advocacy efforts with Iowa legislators by participating in Day at the Capitol on March 29th. That event will be immediately followed by the second Iowa OCA Advisory Committee Meeting.
Call or e-mail us for more information. The Iowa OCA is pleased to be a part of NAMI Iowa’s legislative priorities as they are important for Iowans who suffer from mental illness and their families. Please join us! You are most welcome to get involved.