Now that summer is here and the dust has settled from the 2017 Iowa Legislative session, it is time to take stock of what transpired. What follows is a partial list of new laws that may be of interest to people with disabilities and their families or advocates. Most of these laws are effective July 1, 2017.
• Health insurance plans will now be required to pay for Applied Behavior Analysis for children/youth with autism. This applies to any plans renewed or issued after January 1, 2018.
• Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) will be able to receive training online.
• County election commissioners will be able to combine or separate precincts for any election, so voters can vote at a central location if more practical.
• Voters will be required to show a photo ID or a new voter registration card when voting, and their signatures can be questioned by poll workers. While this goes into effect this July, poll workers won’t actually enforce the new ID law until January 1, 2019.
• Iowans with several chronic conditions (including cancer, MS, ALS, among others) will be able to use low-THC medical cannabidiol, currently limited to people who have a severe form of epilepsy. Several dispensaries in the state will be available beginning December 1, 2018.
• Caretakers who personally degrade or do things to intentionally embarrass the people under their care can now be charged with dependent adult abuse.
• Hospitals will be able to more quickly evaluate and provide treatment to people who are facing commitment by allowing other mental health providers (not just doctors) to perform these services.
• Mental Health/Disability Service (MH/DS) regions were given authority to tax at a per capita rate, which provides greater stability and predictability in the system for nearly all of the state’s regions. The Eastern Iowa region, of which Scott County is a part, is one of two regions that will need a future fix. This issue is scheduled to be reviewed in the 2018 interim.
• Hospitals, providers, regional MH/DS staff and law enforcement will be able to more quickly and accurately find open inpatient psychiatric beds under a new law that requires hospitals and Mental Health Institutes to update their bed status at least twice a day, and to note whether those open beds are designated as geriatric, child, adult, or only available to one gender.
Links to more information about bills that were passed can be found on the HDC website.