IA lawmakers hope to keep mental health services strong, despite changes
Cherokee has one of the biggest mental health care facilities in the state, but now it also could see fewer funds come its way.
A recent university study that ranked Iowa near the bottom for mental health care has lawmakers looking for change.
Now, some of Iowa's state representatives are working to ensure that this makeover to the state's mental health system is for the better.
"It is sadly common for doctors and ERs to be calling over the state to find a bed for a patient in crisis," said Dr. Dan Gillette, president of the Iowa Psychiatric Society.
After a sweeping overhaul of Iowa's mental health programs last year, lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to implement a more regionalized system.
"We need to make sure that the transition to that service from that service to some other form of mental health support is the easiest transition possible," said Chris Hall, D-District 13.
"You have some kickback from the counties, saying you're doing this reform to improve services across the state, but our county, the services are actually going down," said Ron Jorgensen, R-District 6.
Cherokee has one of the biggest facilities in the state for mental health care, but now it also could see fewer funds come its way. Across the country, the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has renewed the focus on funding for mental health.
"Hopefully one good thing that can come out of it is an increased mental awareness of the importance of mental health treatment and funding."
"We want to bring the bottom level up and keep the top level counties functioning just like they have been in the past," said Jorgensen.
In Iowa, attempts to equalize services across the state come with their own funding challenges.
"I think focusing on the treatment and preventative care is what we should focus on this session," said David Dawson.
"This is the transition part that the legislature has to deal with, of how more additional funds that we have to allocate, so that counties and systems don't go backward," said Jorgensen.
As the state struggles with changes, lawmakers say they are committed to ensuring important services not saved but also improved.
Lawmakers estimate transitional funding will last one to two years.
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