Interim Agreement Provides Pathway to Improved Mental Health Care for Iowa Children 


Alex Carfrae, Iowa Department of Health and Human Services,

Katelynn Schultz, Disability Rights Iowa,

Andrew DiAntonio, National Health Law Program,

Aaron Kellogg, Ropes & Gray,

Camilla Jenkins, Children’s Rights,

Des Moines, IA – Today, the State of Iowa agreed to an interim settlement in a lawsuit brought on behalf of Medicaid-eligible children with serious mental and behavioral health needs, which asserted that Iowa administers an inadequate mental health system that does not provide children and youth with legally required services. To address these decades long issues, the State of Iowa has launched major transformations through the Mental Health and Disability Regional structure to provide core services to children in Iowa and will continue to improve the state’s mental health system specifically for all Iowans. The terms of this agreement will strengthen the work already underway and shift to increase oversight in the behavioral health system to ensure adequate access to services for families and children.

 “We commend Governor Reynolds and her administration for recognizing the unmet needs of children with serious mental health needs in Iowa and their right to essential mental health care services,” said Catherine Johnson, the Executive Director of Disability Rights Iowa, one of the groups representing the Plaintiffs. “Her commitment to take the steps necessary to provide them with the intensive home and community-based services they need, we believe will allow our children to remain at home with the families or caregivers best able to love and care for them.” Plaintiffs are also represented by Children’s Rights, the National Health Law Program and Ropes & Gray. 

Over the course of the next several months, the state will develop an implementation plan that will bolster and reinforce the significant actions already taken in recent years to improve the mental health system in Iowa. The plan will include defining clear access points for behavioral health services, including crisis and in-home services. The plan will also describe how the state will oversee adequate access and update case management supports to ensure children and families are more successful in the community and at school. 

“Iowa HHS has spent the past several years honing its work to better support children and families. This demonstrated commitment from across our agency is especially true for our populations in need of significant support. The Iowa Medicaid team has led a multi-year effort to transform this system that includes bringing individuals and families to the table in a meaningful way. These changes cement the work already in progress and we are proud to pave the way forward,” said Iowa HHS Director Kelly Garcia. 

About Disability Rights Iowa

Disability Rights Iowa is part of a nationwide network of protection and advocacy systems established in the 1970s by the U.S. Congress to respond to abuse and neglect of Iowans with disabilities. DRI defends and promotes the human and legal rights of Iowans who have disabilities. We promote safety, opportunity, access, and self-determination for all Iowans. For more information, please visit  

About Children’s Rights

Every day, children are harmed in America’s child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit

About National Health Law Program

National Health Law Program (NHeLP) protects and advances the health rights of low-income and underserved individuals and families. NHeLP advocates, educates and litigates at the federal and state levels. Our lawyers and policy analysts stand up for the rights of the millions of people who struggle to access affordable, quality health care. We are guided by the belief – a challenge – that each generation should live better than the last. For more information, please visit

About Ropes & Gray, LLC.

Ropes & Gray is a preeminent global law firm with approximately 1,400 lawyers and legal professionals serving clients in major centers of business, finance, technology and government. The firm has offices in Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Silicon Valley, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul, and has consistently been recognized for its leading practices in many areas, including private equity, M&A, finance, asset management, real estate, tax, antitrust, life sciences, health care, intellectual property, litigation & enforcement, privacy & cybersecurity, and business restructuring.

Ropes & Gray’s public service commitment is a hallmark of the firm, rooted in the example set by the firm’s founders more than a century and a half ago.  From securing asylum for endangered immigrants, to helping people keep their homes, to winning the release of the wrongly convicted, Ropes & Gray strives to provide the highest level of pro bono legal advice and support to those who need it most. For more information, please visit

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

Alex Carfrae
(515) 281-4848

Disability Rights Iowa

Katelynn Schultz
(515) 278-2502

National Health Law Program

Andrew DiAntonio
(703) 615-0786

Ropes & Gray

Aaron Kellogg
(617) 235-4403

Children’s Rights

Camilla Jenkins
(917) 971-1784