News Article Details

NAMI Candidate Forum to focus on mental health issues

Newton Daily News - 10/18/2018

Oct. 18--Voters focused on the mental health stances of their local statehouse candidates will soon get the chance to ask them directly.

A Candidate Forum will take place at 6:30 p.m.Oct. 22 at Newton DMACC's conference center, room 210 A and C. Organized by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the forum's participants include Iowa House District 29 candidates Rep. Wes Breckenridge, D-Newton, and Ann Howell, R-Colfax; Iowa House District 28 candidates, Ann Fields, D-Knoxville, and Jon Thorup, R-Knoxville; and Iowa Senate District 15 candidates Dan Nieland, D-Altoona, and Rep. Zach Nunn, R-Bondurant.

The candidates will first answer questions from a panel set up by Newton-area NAMI representatives, followed by answering questions guests write on passed-out pens and papers. Members of the panel include Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess, Capstone Director Julie Smith, Discover Hope representative Robby Robinson, NAMI Central Iowa representative Kelly Kirk and Jill Clapper.

Bill Ehler, NAMI Central Iowa board member, said his organization and Mental Health Collaboration are both sponsoring the forum because he sees spreading awareness on mental illness, substance abuse and Medicaid issues as a need in the community.

"Medicaid has been a big issue, too, in the legislature. A lot of people on substance abuse and mental illness are on Medicaid," Ehler said. "As of the last legislative session, it was a very (common) topic on mental health."

The forum is open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend. During a recent Baxter Community School District board meeting, one local leader said she plans to attend and learn as much as they can to help service her school district.

Mickolyn Clapper, Baxter school district superintendent, said she has worked at other school districts in the past and has seen issues related to mental illness regarding students.

"There's just not enough help," Mickolyn Clapper said. "We have a K-12 counselor who does a great job, but he's a school counselor, not a mental health counselor."

In addition, Mickolyn Clapper said if she had the opportunity to ask the candidates a question after the panel's time is up, she will ask for general help.

"At my old district, we had kids that had so many mental health issues, and we didn't have enough counselors or enough places to send them. There wasn't the right staff to meet these kids' needs," Mickolyn Clapper said. "Even just getting kids to counseling is a barrier to parents. I don't know the solution, but I know we need help."

The forum should also serve as a useful place for the candidates to come up with some ideas related to Medicaid, mental illness and substance abuse to implement after their elections.

This event is different from other local candidate forums, as Ehler is giving voters a chance to hear from the candidates about these specific issues related to mental health and to let their voices be heard.

"We'll keep a pen, pencil and paper for them to write their questions down," Ehler said. "We're going to try to answer every question that they can in 90 minutes."

For more information, call NAMI Central Iowa at 641-417-9993.

Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or


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