The Iowa House has approved a bill that calls for massive changes in the way poor Iowans receive mental health services.
Counties currently provide those services and use property taxes to pay for it. The legislation sets the stage for a regional system, managed and paid for with state tax dollars. Representative Nick Wagner, a Republican from Marion, said a state-managed system will be fairer to Iowans who cannot afford to get mental health treatment on their own.
“We have the situation in Iowa today because of where I live I may not even get the medication I need, but another Iowan in another part of the state is getting a free cell phone. That is not right. That is not what this system should be doing,” Wagner said. “These are our most vulnerable citizens that need our help.”
Democrats, however, raised objections to the plan that cleared the Republican-led Iowa House today. Representative Mary Gaskill, a Democrat from Ottumwa, said some counties — like Wapello County — will get less money in the future to help county residents who need mental health services, but can’t afford it themselves.
“What you’re doing is punishing those who have been able to provide the services and did a good job under the current system,” Gaskill said. “…What you’re doing is picking winners and losers — and we’re the losers.”
Representative Renee Schulte, a Republican from Cedar Rapids who led the reform effort in the House, said the bill is not perfect, but it’s a start.
“This was an unsustainable system with an unsustainable future and this gives us a path to get from here to there,” Schulte said.
AUDIO of House debate of SF2315.
The bill passed on a 65-32 vote. It now goes to the Democratically-led Senate to consider some of the changes Republicans made in the House.