The 13 candidates running for governor who gathered at a forum this past week agree there is a need for more long-term care options for mentally ill Iowans.
Three of the candidates support reopening the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. Nearly all agree the insurance companies managing care for Medicaid patients have created “chaos” for those dealing with a mental illness.
“The governor needs to admit failure,” said John Norris, one of the seven Democratic candidates at the event. “That’s a part of being a leader.”
Republican Governor Kim Reynolds was not at the event, but recorded a brief video message that was played for the crowd on the Des Moines University campus.
“Today, Iowa’s mental health system is serving more Iowans in more modern ways, with better services in more local home and community settings than ever before,” Reynolds said.
Former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire, a doctor who’s running for governor, scoffed.
“I don’t know what state she’s living in, but it’s not the state I’m living in,” McGuire said.
Nate Boulton, a state senator from Des Moines who’s also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, said: “We have a serious mental health crisis in this state and we need to have serious conversations about answers.”
Boulton would reopen the state Mental Health Institutes. Fred Hubbell, another Democratic competitor in the 2018 gubernatorial contest, argued the emphasis should be on boosting community-level services.
“Mental health shows up differently in every family, in every neighborhood, in every community,” Hubbell said.
Brent Roske, an independent candidate for governor, and Democrat Cathy Glasson of Coralville both said it’s time for a single-payer health care system that will cover treatment for mental illness.
“We need to look at this as something that we expect, just like police, fire, K-12,” Roske said. “It’s a benefit of citizenship and it has to be addressed now.”
The forum opened with a moment of silence to recognize Iowans who are struggling with mental illness and addictions. Jake Porter of Council Bluffs, a Libertarian running for governor, told the crowd that “years ago” he contemplated suicide.
“None of this is going to change until we address the stigma behind addressing mental health,” Porter said.
More than 400 people attended the forum on Tuesday night. It was organized by The Des Moines Register and hosted by Des Moines University and the Iowa Hospital Association. Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron Corbett and Steven Ray, Democratic candidates Jon Neiderbach and Ross Wilburn and Libertarian candidate Marco Battaglia.