An official in northwest Iowa is predicting delays in patient care and property tax hikes because of a new state law. Iowa lawmakers approved a bill to shift control of Medicaid-funded mental health services from counties to the state. Woodbury County Social Services Coordinator Patty Erickson-Puttmann says some clients seeking mental health care will be placed on a waiting list because of the changes.

“Unless we’re under a court order…because if they’re not under a court order, we’re not going to serve them. We don’t have the money to do it,” Erickson-Puttmann says. The waiting lists mean it could take months for some clients to get help. In Woodbury County and others, that list will start July 1 — the start of the new fiscal year.

Erickson-Puttmann says the state will “backfill” funding until the end of the 2013 fiscal year. “At that time, the counties will more than likely be asked to increase property taxes,” Erickson-Puttmann says. She says the new law amounts to an unfunded mandate from the state.

Legislators who back the change in funding control said it’s part of a series of reforms to Iowa’s mental health care system designed to make services more uniform across the state.

By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City