Working together, we can help kids in need

By State Sen. Nate Boulton, Des Moines (Senate District 16)

Over the past year, I have had the chance to learn about a serious and heartbreaking illness that affects children who suffer from complications associated with strep infections. While most of us would not panic to hear our child has a diagnosis as common as strep throat, the unfortunate reality is that for some kids, that infection leads to a much more serious condition.

PANDAS/PANS refers to several neuro-psychiatric conditions that can result from a simple streptococcal infection. Children affected suffer from a variety of problems, some as simple as headaches. Others, however, may become emotionally unstable and even suicidal. The National Institute of Mental Health Treatment describes the symptoms as usually dramatic, come on suddenly, and can include motor or vocal tics, obsessions and compulsions. Otherwise happy and healthy children can get a strep infection that one day causes a “trap door” to be triggered.

While the condition alone is scary, parents face another frightening reality: treatment can be expensive and some health insurance companies refuse to cover it. To help ease the burden on these families facing a tough road ahead, I drafted legislation that requires coverage for treatment related to a PANDAS/PANS diagnosis.

I was proud to see that as I spoke with other legislators about the issue, I was joined by Senators Tom Greene of Burlington (R), Liz Mathis of Hiawatha (D) and Mark Segebart of Vail (R) who signed on to co-sponsor the bill. We are making this a bipartisan effort to help families in need. SF 2084 has now been assigned to the Senate Human Resources Committee and awaits review by a Senate Subcommittee.

Just as pediatric illnesses don’t afflict only Democratic or Republican children, our party labels should not prevent us from getting kids the health care they need when they need it.

You can learn more about the issue in this short video with two Iowa moms: