10 WAYS IOWA GOT SAFER IN 2013
Iowa is a pretty safe place. We rank among the 10 most peaceful states in America in the 2012 U.S. Peace Index report, which looks at homicide, violent crime, policing and prison rates.
We also fare well when it comes to accidents. According to the Trust for America’s Health, Iowa has the 12th lowest rate of injury deaths. Our state ranks high because we meet many recommended safety standards that keep us healthy and save lives. These include tracking the causes of injuries, prescription drug monitoring to prevent overdoses, required seat belt use and increased attention to head injuries in youth sports.
We further improved Iowa’s reputation for safety this year by:
1. Requiring criminal background checks of health care employees to prevent abuse and fraud (SF 347).
2. Requiring repeat OWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device before they can get a temporary restricted license to drive to work and substance abuse treatment (SF 386).
3. Ensuring teens get supervised driving practice in all seasons and face fewer distractions by strengthening Iowa’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing (SF 115).
4. Requiring more criminals to submit DNA samples. Research shows those who commit property crimes have a high chance of reoffending, with crimes and violence often escalating (HF 527).
5. Providing effective response to emergencies through necessary 911 funding (HF 644).
8. Toughening Iowa laws to better ensure law enforcement can prosecute and put away sex offenders (SF298).
9. Preventing recidivism through corrections education, which helps offenders acquire the skills to become productive members of their communities once they are out of prisons (SF 447).
10. Allowing Iowans to add medical information to their electronic driving record, making it immediately available to health care providers in emergencies (SF 386).
ENSURING ACCESS TO JUSTICE
In addition to protecting our physical well being, safe communities also provide justice for citizens.
The Legislature worked this year to ensure Iowans get that access to justice by providing the funding our courts need to offer full-time services, particularly through clerk of court offices and juvenile courts (SF 442).
Clerks help thousands of Iowans every day but because of staff shortages, their offices had been closed part time since the fall of 2009, making it difficult for Iowans to take care of court-related business. Clerks of court manage all court records; notify government agencies of court orders; and process fines, fees, court costs, child support, civil judgments and speeding tickets.
Nearly all court cases in Iowa begin with a filing with a clerk of court. Citizens shouldn’t find a closed sign on the door when they show up to apply for a protective order, access legal documents or pay a bill. That’s why the Legislature approved enough funding this year for the state’s 100 clerk of court offices to be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
We also made sure Iowa courts have the resources to help Iowa’s troubled youth and their families. Juvenile court officers are key to this process. They work with judges to identify the underlying problems a child may be experiencing. Hiring more juvenile court officers will help the courts meet face-to-face with all young offenders and ensure their needs are met.
This year’s court funding will continue Iowa’s tradition as one of the most responsive and respected court systems in the nation.
VOLUNTEERS HELP VULNERABLE KIDS
Thousands of children are in the Iowa court system because of family abuse and neglect. I’ve voted to help to help protect these vulnerable kids by investing in Iowa’s statewide Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program (HF 603).
The CASA program recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to serve as an effective voice in court for abused and neglected children. CASA volunteers make sure the children they work with are in safe, nurturing places. CASAs also ensure that an abused or neglected child is not further victimized by the system devised to protect the child.
While social workers, judges, and attorneys handle dozens of cases at a time, the independent CASA volunteers typically have just one. This allows them to promote the child’s best interests through investigation, assessment and advocacy. They communicate with family, attorneys, social workers, foster parents, therapists, teachers and doctors. The volunteers attend court hearings and placement and family meetings.
The CASA program has proven its effectiveness, and CASA volunteers now serve children in all 99 Iowa counties. Studies show that children in foster care who have a CASA assigned to them receive more help and are more likely to find a permanent home.
To learn how you can help a child in need as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, visit http://childadvocacy.iowa.gov.
PREVENTING ELDER ABUSE
The Iowa Department on Aging tells us that older Iowans are increasingly falling prey to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation. Nationally, 1 in 13 seniors report abuse, and it is estimated that 80 percent of elder abuse cases go unreported.
This fall, a special legislative committee will collect ideas to improve Iowa’s efforts to prevent this abuse. The Elder Abuse Prevention and Intervention Study Committee will examine data, look at what is working in other states, hear from experts and offer recommendations to be considered during the 2014 session of the Legislature.
Elder abuse appears in many different forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, undue influence, sexual exploitation, financial exploitation and denial of critical care. We all have a role to play when it comes to ensuring older Iowans are safe and able to enjoy the best possible quality of life.
How can you help?
• Keep in regular contact with older friends and family.
• Listen to seniors and their caregivers.
• Take action when you suspect elder abuse. In Iowa, you should call 800-362-2178 if you suspect a senior you know is at risk of being abused.
The Iowa Department on Aging is hosting a two-part Webinar series on Elder Rights & Protection. These free online seminars take place from 10-11:30 a.m. on October 22 and November 19. The sessions will provide an overview of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation; how and why it occurs; warning signs and risk factors; barriers to addressing elder abuse; and available resources. Register and learn more at www.iowaaging.gov/elder- abuse-neglect-and-exploitation.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Phone assistance for low-income Iowans Telephone service is vital in emergencies and essential for staying connected to family, employment and community resources. Low-income Iowans may qualify for help with their phone bill though federal Lifeline telephone assistance. Eligible Iowans must have an income at or below 135 percent of federal poverty guidelines or be eligible for other federal public assistance. Those who apply and qualify will receive a $9.25 monthly telephone bill credit. For complete details and an application, go here
Communities can apply for Great Places designation
Through October 1, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs is accepting Letters of Intent from Iowa communities interested in seeking designation as an Iowa Great Place and funding for related projects. This year, the Legislature approved $1 million so that state and local groups can work together to cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of Iowa neighborhoods, districts, communities and regions.
Since 2005, Iowa Great Places has helped make our state an ever-better place to live and work. The return on investment has been significant, as reported in the 2010 Economic Impact Report, and Great Places projects have resulted thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs. For more information and to apply, go to www.iowagreatplaces.gov.
Grants available to rural fire departments
Through October 15, the Forestry Bureau of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is accepting grant applications from rural fire departments to help pay for equipment to battle wildfires. The grants can be used for wildfire suppression equipment, slide in units, hoses, nozzles, adapters, portable tanks and pumps, personal protective equipment and communications equipment. The Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant Application package and other resources are available at www.iowadnr.gov/fire.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601