Mental Health System Under Threat

Gov. Reynolds’ tax plan is another massive cut for wealthy Iowans that will drain funds from state priorities, and damage our mental health system.

Plan by Gov. Reynolds and Farm Bureau jeopardizes Iowa’s mental health system

By State Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Iowa City (Senate District 43)

I have been working for the last three weeks to draw attention to Governor Reynolds’ proposal to undermine stable, core funding of our local mental health system.

I understand that every major business organization will support this deal, but I was shocked this week to learn that NAMI Iowa has endorsed Governor Reynolds’ destructive proposal. Why is NAMI Iowa joining Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Farm Bureau to hurt our mental health care providers and people that need their services? I don’t understand.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom is interviewed Feb. 12 on the Governor’s plan to shift the tax burden onto seniors and low-income Iowans, while undermining stable funding for Iowa’s adult mental health system.

Here are some details about the Governor’s plan.

While the main thrust of Governor Reynolds’ tax shift proposal is to give another massive tax cut to wealthy Iowans that will drain hundreds of millions from state priorities, she also proposes to do great damage to our mental health system.

The Governor’s plan is a disaster. It cuts $80 million in stable, predictable local funding from our mental health system, and replaces it with unpredictable and insufficient state appropriations.

The strength of our adult system is that it was created and is financially supported by local elected officials, families and mental health providers. It is the backbone of our mental health system. The reason it exists today is that it has NOT had to rely on annually begging the Legislature for resources over the past 50 years. It is successful because local elected officials are accountable for making it work.

More state control of the system will result in less stable funding, less local accountability for results and more broken promises. Why would the Governor, who says she cares about mental health, propose to take away much of its most secure financial support?

Because the Iowa Farm Bureau told her too. It has been a Farm Bureau priority for 30 years. Why should Farm Bureau members have to pay for mental health services? “What do social services like mental health have to do with farm fields,” they ask.

I investigated who pays the dedicated county mental health property tax levy that funds our local providers. Implied in Farm Bureau’s complaint is that they are paying more than their fair share for local mental health services. For the record, agricultural property accounts for 18 percent of the total statewide contribution for our local mental health services. Apparently, they want to pay zero.

So the Governor and the Farm Bureau want to destroy the most reliable source of funding for our mental health system because Farm Bureau does not want to pay their fair share for mental health services. I don’t understand why NAMI Iowa agrees?

I wish I had more faith in Iowa state government to keep its word. I don’t aim to be mean, but just look at the GOP’s major health care initiatives over the past five years to see how Republican control of our health care has been amazingly ineffective.  

Everyone but Governor Reynolds and legislative Republicans still agree that privatizing Medicaid has been a costly disaster. Governor Reynolds’ and Republican’s closure of two state mental health facilities (Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant) resulted in premature death for several vulnerable Iowans and significantly reduced much needed mental health beds.

The GOP gutted Iowa’s successful family planning programs that have led to a documented maternal mortality crisis and dangerous outcomes for pregnant moms and their babies.

The GOP’s medical cannabis program is the worst, most bureaucratic, unworkable program in the nation.

And now the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Reynolds’ Administration for its operation of two state resource centers (Glenwood and Woodward) for our most vulnerable intellectually disabled and mental health patients, following an unusual number of recent deaths and serious violations of federal law.

More state control over Iowa’s local mental health system will lead to serious decline. Please speak up NOW if you care about maintaining and improving Iowa’s mental health system.