EveryStep Calls for Mental Health Program Expansion to Address Children’s Grief & Loss

Ensuring the health and safety of children has been the focus of the Iowa Legislature for years. While the state has seen significant improvement related to children’s mental health through discussions, legislation and the creation of the Children’s Mental Health System in 2019, the non-profit EveryStep believes there is more we can do to support our youngest Iowans. 
EveryStep’s leaders and mental health advocates point to a lack of funding and programs to address the underlying issues of grief and loss in children’s mental health – issues the organization feels must be tackled this legislative session.
Experiencing a significant childhood trauma through loss – whether related to the death of a loved one, loss of home, or loss of sense of security – can result in profound stress and adversity, and without appropriate support can significantly derail a child’s development.

“We must work together to do more to provide children with access to comprehensive, grief-focused, trauma-informed care and resources as part of the Children’s Mental Health System in Iowa,” says Tray Wade, president and CEO of EveryStep. “EveryStep is currently working to address mental health shortfalls through its Amanda the Panda program, which provides a wide range of support to people of all ages who have experienced a loss.”

Click the photo above for a full PDF of EveryStep's legislative priorities in 2021. 

In recent years, EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda program implemented an innovative school-based service to support young people experiencing grief or loss. However, that school-based program is currently only offered at several Des Moines Public Schools, leaving scores of children in surrounding areas vulnerable.
With this in mind, EveryStep is advocating for a Children’s Mental Health project to address grief and loss services through an investment of $200,000. These funds would be used to expand youth access to grief and loss services provided by EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda program in schools.

Through such funding, EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda program would add a full-time facilitator to serve additional students at rural schools or districts where these types of counseling resources are not as readily available.
It is estimated that this legislative action would expand EveryStep’s in-school grief and loss services to reach up to 375 Iowa students each year.

“These peer-based, community-focused support groups are an important piece of an overall children’s mental health system,” says Ashley Mori, director of EveryStep Grief & Loss Services’ Amanda the Panda program. “Through this program, children receive the care, attention and resources they need to traverse incidents of traumatic loss, whether that is the death of a loved one, loss of a home or other experience.”

Resources offered through the program provide a foundational level of assessment and support for children with traumatic loss. What’s more, this access allows EveryStep staff to identify and triage children with more significant mental health needs.
Expanding this program will reduce the burden on the state’s mental health system and reduce overall health costs for children and their families, according to EveryStep.