Governor Tom Vilsack signed a bill into law today that advocates say will improve services for the mentally disabled. The bill establishes new income guidelines for services, increases reimbursement rates for mental health professionals and raised funding for counties that have a large increase in residents with disabilities.
Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson says the bill makes some important improvements.
Pederson says this is about “enabling and enhancing the ability of people who face some barriers in life to be able to live their lives more fully in the communities where they chose to live and work and contribute to our society.” Pederson says this is a victory for all those who’ve worked so long to get the changes.
Pederson says sometimes you lose faith that you can make something happen, but she says this sends the message that when hard work comes together and consensus is reached, the legislature will take action. Pederson says a lot of people had a hand in crafting the legislation. Pederson says literally hundreds of Iowans were involved in the work over the last three years to come up with the recommendations that were the guidelines of the legislation.
The chair of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Brain Injury, Kay Graber, says around seven thousand Iowans will suffer a brain injury this year and three thousand will need long-term disability assistance. Graber says falls are the leading cause of brain injuries. She says for younger people, car accidents are the biggest cause of brain injuries, but she says drugs and assaults are “fast creeping up.”
Graber says she’s lobbied for over 20 years to get brain injuries to be recognized as a disability. The legislation signed by the governor will provide funding for families that are not immediately eligible for Medicaid. Graber says there is a “brain injury waiver,” but people are often on a waiting list for a waiver for up to one year. Graber says we desperately need continuity of service from hospital care to community-based services. Graber says the continuity of service would mean a person doesn’t have to be institutionalized while they wait for a waiver for home care.