DeJear Campaigns for Education, Access to Mental Health | News, Sports, Work

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear speaks at a campaign event at the Triton Cafe in Iowa Central Thursday night.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear has focused on the quality of education in Iowa and the availability of mental health care, two priorities she believes are not unreasonable.

DeJear spoke to about 75 people at Central Iowa Community College’s Triton Cafe Thursday night.

“This is a country that was once No. 1 in education,” said the candidate. “Now we’re 18, 19, 20 on the list, depending on which list you look at. And we as Iowans know that’s not where we belong… We have a governor right now who is not fully funding our education system, and that’s unfortunate.”

DeJear said he wants to make Iowa more competitive with other states in attracting new teachers by increasing teacher starting pay and reintroducing loan forgiveness programs for teachers who commit to teaching in Iowa.

The need for more teachers — in the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage — also ties into Iowa’s need for more mental health professionals, the candidate said.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert

Iowa Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deidre DeJear chats with Fort Dodge high school students Gabby Schumacher and Kylie Ganzeveld before DeJear’s campaign stop at the Triton Cafe in Iowa Central Thursday night.

“I want every one of our public schools across the state to have mental health services,” she said. “We ask our teachers to do much more with much less. If we can get social workers and mental health professionals in our schools it will make a huge difference.”

DeJear shared a story about a northeast Iowa father who took his teenage son to the emergency room during a mental health crisis and found he didn’t have many options — he could wait six months to see a psychiatrist or two months to go of a psychologist or drive six hours across the state to the one open bed for a mental health patient.

“That’s unreasonable,” DeJer said. “We have less than 30 child psychiatrists in the state and we have more than half a million children… We have less than 750 mental health beds in the state and we have more than 3 million people.”

The candidate said a big part of the problem is that there aren’t enough mental health providers in the state. She wants to improve reimbursement rates for mental health providers and streamline the licensing process to attract providers to Iowa.

Those are reasonable goals, DeJear said.

“We want a fully funded education system, we don’t want too much,” she said. “When you want access to health care and mental health services in your community, you don’t ask for too much. … But what’s unreasonable is that we have leadership that is unwilling to create the pathway for people to access those services.”

An audience member asked DeJear about a recent TV ad in support of Governor Kim Reynolds’ campaign that suggested DeJear was part of “pay off the police” movement.

“I’m not in favor of ‘defunding the police’ by any means.” DeJer said.

She said if we believe that defunding the police is the solution, then that must mean the police are the problem.

“I don’t believe the police are the problem” DeJer said. “I believe that police and law enforcement are part of the solution. I believe the current governor’s failed policies are our problem.

Republicans’ attempts to label her as “anti-police” is just a political tactic and a distraction from the issues, DeJear said.

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