Advocates Sue the State of Iowa over Failure to Provide Mental Health Care for Medicaid-Eligible Children

In The News
January 17, 2023

Ropes & Gray, along with co-counsel Disability Rights Iowa, Children's Rights and National Health Law Program, has filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Iowa is denying Medicaid-eligible children their legal right to mental health care. The filing comes as children in the U.S. face unprecedented mental health challenges, and the need for mental health services among Iowa’s children has reached crisis levels. Iowa is ranked 41st worst in the nation for number of children suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the last year.

The lawsuit is brought on behalf of Medicaid-eligible children under the age of 21 whose serious mental health conditions require intensive home and community-based services to meet their needs and allow them to live successfully at home with their families or caregivers. Without them, these children are at high risk of being segregated from their communities and unnecessarily placed in institutions.

The lawsuit asserts that Iowa administers an inadequate, inaccessible, and dysfunctional mental health system for these children and youth, despite receiving substantial federal Medicaid funding for that very purpose. The State is required to provide services including intensive care coordination, intensive in-home therapeutic services, and crisis response services, but fails to do so. In addition, the state has not established policies and practices to address the need for these services and ensure they are provided as necessary to these children.

“In recent years, we have seen the mental health crisis impacting more children than ever before, particularly children from low income families, communities of color, and children who identify as LGBTQIA+. With this lawsuit, we aim to improve the long-term outlook for kids with mental health care needs by ensuring that Medicaid recipients in Iowa have access to these vital services,” said Tim Farrell, litigation & enforcement partner who represents plaintiffs.

The Ropes & Gray team is led by litigation & enforcement partner Tim Farrell, and has included associates Tyler Paladino and Catherine Conroy, former associate Krista Evensen, paralegal Ricardo Venegas, and legal technology analyst Michelle Kahn.

For more information on the lawsuit and to see the complete press release, visit this link.