A bill that would “redesign” the state’s mental health delivery system has cleared the Iowa Senate, but a decision about how to finance mental health services for low income Iowans remains unresolved. Counties currently raise about $125-million a year in property taxes to pay for mental health services for Iowans who can’t afford to pay.
Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, says it makes sense to set up a regional system for mental health care services, to ensure all Iowans have equal access to critical care. “This is not like health care reform where we put money into possibly keeping people from getting ill. This is part of the health care system where people are ill,” Hatch says. “…If we don’t provide a process where every Iowa has access to any and all services that are needed to get healthier, people will die. That’s the importance of this bill.”
Hatch calls the proposal one of the three most important bills lawmakers will tackle this year. “But unlike the education reform or property tax reform, this bill — mental health redesign — had bipartisan support from the very beginning,” Hatch says.
The bill passed the Senate with the support of 25 Democrats and seven Republicans, however 17 other Republicans along with one Democrat voted against it. Last year legislators voted to end the current, county-based system of mental health services for indigent patients.
Governor Branstad’s budget plan calls for setting aside $30-million of state tax dollars next year to begin the process of shifting to a state-managed system.