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Veto of Mental Health Institute funding hurts vulnerable Iowans

July 17, 2015
By State Senator Steve Sodders - D-State Center , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

As part of ongoing efforts to improve mental health services, we voted this year to make it easier for Iowans to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment closer to home. This included a bipartisan plan to keep all four of Iowa's mental health institutes (MHIs) operating.

Republican and Democratic legislators reached an agreement to keep the Mount Pleasant MHI open and to seek a private provider to run the Clarinda facility. Yet Governor Branstad refused to acknowledge the will of Republican and Democratic legislators as well as the majority of Iowans - when he vetoed the funding we provided.

These facilities have offered critical services, including special psychiatric treatment for seniors and inpatient help for dual mental health and substance use disorders. With the facilities now closed, family members must drive hours to attend to loved ones housed in other parts of the state; sheriffs have to transport patients great distances instead of attending to issues in their communities; and hospital emergency rooms could fill up even faster than they have in the past.

Article Photos

State Senator Steve Sodders
D-State Center

The Governor justifies his veto of funding for the two MHIs by saying they are outdated. However, former patients and staff describe the facilities as modern, efficient operations that provide services not always available in other locations.

In addition, health service providers, public safety officers, religious leaders and advocates have been critical of the Governor closing Clarinda and Mount Pleasant. Iowans rallied to demonstrate widespread community and statewide support for the MHIs, which provide skilled, caring staff to help people who have nowhere else to turn.

Public safety and medical professionals say Iowa has a mental health crisis. That crisis may get worse now that more than 80 employs have received layoff notices effective June 30 and the doors have closed at Mount Pleasant and Clarinda.

 
 
 

 

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