Jerry Foxhoven (file photo)

A state board has completed its plan for greatly expanding options for Iowa children who need mental health care services. Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven says he’s optimistic lawmakers and the governor will implement the board’s proposals.

“We looked at what is doable quickly and what is most important quickly, so we know we need crisis services,” Foxhoven says. “We know that we need, like, an 800 hotline. We know that we need universal screenings — so some of those steps we require almost immediately.”

The plan calls for mental health screening of Iowa children under the age of 18, so parents and professionals can perhaps intervene earlier — before there’s a crisis. Peggy Huppert, the leader of a mental health advocacy group, says she’s encouraged by the recommendations, but she cautions that lawmakers will have to find money somewhere to make the entire plan a reality.

Foxhoven says he’s optimistic lawmakers will make it a priority.

“There’s been such a commitment from the governor and from both sides of the aisle that it’s worth putting money into it,” Foxhoven says.

There’s no estimate, yet, of exactly how much money is needed to implement the plan.

(Thanks to Iowa Public Radio’s Katarina Sostaric)