Bill Requires Iowa Schools to Print 211 Crisis Line on Student IDs

(Radio Iowa) Printing the state’s 211 suicide crisis line on student I-D cards would be required under a bill getting bipartisan backing in the Iowa legislature. Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, grew emotional as he thanked his colleagues for supporting the bill.

“I was there at one time in my life, but didn’t have the courage to go through it. At times, you don’t have people to talk to or you just want to hold it in,” Dotzler said. “I mean even though I’m 60 years past that, it’s still there.” Senator Jeff Taylor, a Republican from Sioux Center, says the bill applies to student I-Ds issued by public schools in Iowa, but he’s hoping private schools offer the same information if they provide ID cards to students.

“I think all of us have been children. All of us remember that it’s not always easy being a kid. the struggles that we have whether it’s with depression or bullying or anxiety — all of that,” Taylor says. “This bill is not going to solve all the problems, but I think it’s a step in the right direction to provide some kind of access for a child who feels alone, struggling with something that’s beyond what he or she can handle.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously today (Thursday). It passed the House on a 91-to-four vote a month ago. Republican Representative Ray Sorenson of Greenfield says the Your Life Iowa program has an app for smartphones — and kids can text or call 2-1-1 to reach the program’s counselors.

“For me, if it can save even one life, maybe a kid looking for help, for a lifeline,” Sorenson said, “it’s worth the small amount of ink to simply print it on student IDs.” Representative Timi Brown-Powers, a Democrat from Waterloo, says for the past three years a group of Waterloo students has been lobbying for the bill.

“One of the things to remember is this number on the back of the ID can help them with any…mental health crisis they may be in, any bullying that they may be experiencing,” Brown-Powers says. Representative Jeff Shipley, a Republican from Fairfield, says recent surveys show a troubling and dramatic increase in kids saying they feel persistently feel sad and hopeless.

“In general, I tend to be pretty uneasy about unfunded mandates on school districts, but given the scope of the problem I think a mandate is definitely appropriate,” Shipley says. The House must approve a slight change the Senate made in the bill before it goes to the governor.