Democratic candidate Nate Boulton, a state senator from Des Moines, has been calling for reopening the two state-run Mental Health Institutes former Governor Branstad closed.
“When those facilities were shut down, the services were lost. They weren’t replaced with anything. There was nothing new that came in to take care of those residents,” Boulton said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “We all know our state needs to be doing more, not less, for mental health care.”
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett is challenging Governor Kim Reynolds in the Republican Primary next June. According to Corbett, a fragmented system was made worse by the decision to close the Mental Health Institutes in southern Iowa.
“All that did was compress the system down,” Corbett said during a recent Radio Iowa interview. “The state may have saved some money, but the patients didn’t evaporate, they just got pushed down and, in many cases, on local property taxpayers.”
Corbett said some state-run facility needs to provide 25 to 50 more beds for patients with acute mental illnesses.
Corbett will attend Tuesday’s forum. Governor Kim Reynolds won’t, but she’s sending a short video that will be played for the crowd.
Democratic candidate Fred Hubbell, a Des Moines businessman, took a tour of hospitals and jails around the state last month. Emergency rooms and jails have become the “last resort” treatment option for mentally ill Iowans, according to Hubbell.
Andy McGuire, a medical doctor who’s also seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination, said last week that police have become “mental health providers.”
“They take patients to jail and to emergency rooms, two of the most expensive and worst places for someone in crisis rather than preventing crisis with more up-front counseling,” McGuire said. “…We need to prioritize and focus resources and we need to destigmatize mental health. We need to love more and ignore less.”
McGuire made her comments at a recent Democratic Party fundraiser. John Norris, another candidate who spoke at the same event, accused Governors Branstad and Reynolds of “turning the heartland into the land of the heartless.”
Tuesday’s discussion about the mental health system is sponsored by The Des Moines Register and Des Moines University and starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.