January 5, 2021

SIOUX CITY, IA (Jan. 11, 2021)—Mental health professionals from Iowa’s nine AEAs recently collaborated to create a website for Iowans who are searching for mental health assistance. The website at www.IowaAEAMentalHealth.org came from a request by the state legislature to help educators, parents, and students navigate resources related to mental health and well-being in Iowa. In addition to AEA contacts for the schools, the site provides contacts for the home setting from Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS).

The website features vetted sources to educate visitors about addiction and substance abuse; anxiety and stress disorders; attention deficit disorder; depression; eating disorders; and self-harm.

A listing of Iowa groups and agencies that advocate for children and families is part of an education component of the site, as well as reducing the stigma associated with mental health.

“A call was put out to Iowa’s AEAs by educational committee legislators last year to offer support to Iowa families and educators in the area of mental health,” said Tom Lane, a lobbyist for Iowa’s AEAs. “The site was designed to alleviate the frustration of navigating sources for mental health in Iowa. When educators visit the site, they will find a point of contact at their respective AEA and family members can reach out to mental health regions of MHDS.”

The site also provides information about proactive measures people can take for self-care.

“People who pay attention to their own physical and emotional health are better able to handle the challenges of supporting someone with mental health issues,” said Lane.

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The Iowa Legislature established Iowa’s Area Education Agencies in 1974 to be an effective, efficient and economical means of identifying and serving children from birth to age 21 who require special education services. This decision was a result of the federal law mandating a free, appropriate, public education for children with disabilities. The Iowa legislature was also plagued with complaints about inequitable services from district to district across Iowa. Today, there are nine AEAs that continue to work as partners with children, families, and educators to prepare all Iowa children for a life well-lived.

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