The Republican, Democrat and Libertarian running for governor disagree on the financing for the state’s mental health system. Republican Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law this spring to address some of the gaps in the system for adults seeking treatment.
“The landmark legislation includes access centers, assertive community treatment teams, comprehensive crisis services, intensive service homes and a 24/7 access hotline, to name a few,” Reynolds said Sunday during a forum on mental health issues.
Reynolds said to pay for those services, the state has renegotiated the contracts with the private companies that manage care for Medicaid patients, plus county property taxes are available to cover expenses. Reynolds said when it comes to long-term funding, a work group will make recommendations.
“Every single legislator, Republican and Democrat, voted for comprehensive mental health care reform and so I can tell you that the commitment is there…to implement the legislation that passed,” she said.
Fred Hubbell, the Democratic nominee for governor, said without funding now, the reform is stalled.
“To me, it’s just a political Band-Aid,” Hubbell said. “The bill was a step we can all agree on, but it provided no funding to communities to provide the care. Instead, it just burdened them with more unfunded mandates.”
Hubbell said if he’s elected, he’d consider allowing local governments to raise more taxes to finance mental health care. Hubbell said his first priority would be to focus on prevention and keeping mentally ill Iowans out of the most costly care there is — in emergency rooms and county jails.
“Make no mistake, we face a serious mental health crisis in our state,” Hubbell said. “and whether it’s you or your family member, your friend or a neighbor, everybody is affected by the serious lack of mental health services across Iowa.”
Libertarian Party candidate Jake Porter said many Iowans with mental illnesses cannot afford care and the law Reynolds signed lacks the funding to pay for expanded mental health services — so he’d bring Medicaid back under state control.
“Involve all the stakeholders this time and let’s make sure we get it right,” Porter said. “No, no one’s going to get everything they want, that’s part of politics. That’s part of life, but we want a system that’s going to help all Iowans or the most Iowans that we possibly can.”
Porter said many of the inmates in Iowa prisons have mental health and addiction issues and that means criminal justice reform is connected to mental health reform.
“We need to end the stigma surrounding drug and alcohol addiction, illegal and legal drug addiction,” Porter said. “We need to look at treating more of these issues as mental health issues, public health issues and less as criminal issues.”
The candidates made their comments at a forum held Sunday and sponsored by The Des Moines Register, the Iowa Hospital Association and Des Moines University. Earlier today, Radio Iowa reported on the personal stories the candidates shared at Sunday’s forum.