Mental Health Redesign

The Iowa legislature is currently working on a “redesign” of Iowa’s mental health and intellectual and developmental disability system, with the goal of saving counties (and thus county real property owners) money while at the same time improving and increasing access to mental health services for all Iowans. This won’t be easy, but it’s necessary — so many of us have friends and/or family members who have a mental health diagnoses or an intellectual/developmental disability (or we have one ourselves), and the current state-wide problems with insufficient funding and lack of availability of consistently quality services to address these diagnoses are having a devastating impact on our families, our local communities, and our state.

The joint House/Senate MH redesign legislative committee has been working and will continue to work across party lines to put together a comprehensive plan to address mental health services and funding mechanisms, but we’re running out of time:  Iowans deserve high quality, accessible mental health services now, and our county supervisors deserve some answers, soon, about how much they are going to be expected to contribute to the cost of providing these services.

I had promised to blog about the most current mental health redesign proposal today, but I tried to explain it once today already at a meeting of Clinton County’s Bridge Behavioral Services/Court System group, and I’m thinking that the following report does a far better job of condensing a great deal of complicated info into a relatively comprehensible package:

Or, if you prefer your reports w/lots of colorful charts:

And here’s a link to a DHS website w/many links to many other interesting reports and documents:

It’s complicated and often confusing stuff, and as I told the service providers at today’s meeting, being a member of the legislative interim committee working on the redesign has given me a much greater appreciation of how incredibly difficult their jobs are, and also how incredibly valuable the services that they provide are to our community.

As we discussed the redesign proposal, it was very clear that these local therapists, case workers, nurses, counselors, administrators, court personnel, law enforcement officers, and corrections officials all care passionately about making Iowa’s mental health system a better one; it was also clear that they have serious and valid concerns as to whether or not all of the many unknowns surrounding the current proposal (not the least of which is how the heck are we going to pay for this?) can be addressed and resolved between now and April 18th, the last scheduled day of the 2012 legislative session. It’s not going to be easy, but legislative leaders from both parties have committed themselves to coming up with a good bill, and I’m impressed by all the hard work they’ve put in over the past several months and by their sincere desire to get it right. So if good intentions could guarantee success, success would be a done deal … since unfortunatley it’s not quite that easy, stay tuned.

Happy Friday the 13th (for another half hour, at least) and have a great weekend!


About Representative Mary Wolfe

Part time attorney; full time State Representative for Iowa House District 98 (East Clinton County)
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