A leading Senate Democrat say lawmakers may vote to close the state’s Mental Health Institute in Clarinda instead of the one in Mount Pleasant.
To save money, the legislature directed Department of Human Services managers to recommended closing one of the state’s four mental health facilities and, in December, the D.H.S. recommended closure of the oldest one, in Mount Pleasant.
But Senator Jack Hatch says the substance abuse treatment provided at that site in Mount Pleasant is too valuable and the state may be better off closing the Mental Health Institute in Clarinda instead. Under his proposal, Clarinda’s 20 adult patients would be moved to the Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, while the 35 elderly patients would be moved to either the Veterans Home in Marshalltown or the Glenwood Resource Center’s home for the disabled. Hatch also predicts employees at the Clarinda Mental Health Institute could easily transfer to another state-run facility in the area.
“There are some preferable sites like Glenwood that people in Clarinda and near Clarinda can still live there and contribute to their community and then still work at Glenwood, so those are pretty appealing to us,” Hatch says.
But a former eastern Iowa legislator warns closing Clarinda’s Mental Health Institute could have a devastating impact on the community. Former State Representative Ro Foege of Mount Vernon served on a task force that studied the Mental Health Institutes.
“The superintendent of schools in Clarinda told us that if that Mental Health Institute in Clarinda would close, it would remove 40 kids from their school,” Foege says. “So this has ramifications. There’s a ripple effect throughout the community.”
The director of the Department of Human Services has said closing the Mental Health Institute in Mount Pleasant would cause the least amount of economic fall-out, compared to closing the facilities in Clarinda or the ones in Independence or Cherokee. But Hatch says once the recommendation to close Mount Pleasant’s facility was made, legislators reconsidered.
“It really opened up a large discussion about how we could move people around that is logical and maintains the services and, in some cases, increases the quality of the services,” Hatch says.
Next week, a Senate committee is scheduled to debate a bill that calls for closing Clarinda’s Mental Health Institute.