Fact Checker: Kim Reynolds' claims on mental health care support

(file photo) Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to supporters May 26 during a stop in Cedar Rapids to introduce her acting lieutenant governor, Adam Gregg. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(file photo) Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to supporters May 26 during a stop in Cedar Rapids to introduce her acting lieutenant governor, Adam Gregg. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)


“Iowa has invested more than $2 billion into the mental health system over the past few years ...”

“Today 150,000 more Iowans have mental health coverage than when the Governor (Terry Branstad) first took office in 2011.”

“The number of inpatient psychiatric beds have increased from 721 to 747 since January 2016.”

“That same year, the state also invested $4 million to create three new medical residency programs to train more psychiatrists.”

Source of claim

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ campaign made the comments in response to Democratic plans released Dec. 4 by candidates looking to unseat the Republican in 2018.

Claim 1

Analysis: The Iowa Department of Human Services released a report in December 2016 saying state and county spending for mental health and disability services was expected to be nearly $2 billion for fiscal 2012 through 2017.

About $1.4 billion of that was the state’s portion of Medicaid that resulted when the state took over financial responsibility for the non-federal share of Medicaid from the counties and regions.


Conclusion: We give Reynolds an A on the claim Iowa has spent more than $2 billion on mental health care over the past few years.

Claim 2

Analysis: The claim about 150,000 more Iowans having mental health coverage than in 2011 relates to the state Health and Wellness Plan, according to Pat Garrett, spokesman for the Reynolds-Gregg campaign.

He pointed Fact Checker to a Human Services report from earlier this year that shows there were nearly 151,000 estimated average enrollees in the program in fiscal 2017. The report goes on to say that last year the plan “served an average of 150,895 individuals that were not previously covered by a full-benefit Medicaid plan.”

However, the Health and Wellness Plan didn’t spring up from nothing. While its predecessor program, IowaCare, did not cover mental health care, low-income Iowans not eligible for Medicaid were able to get some coverage for mental health care through county-based programs, the University of Iowa Public Policy Center reported in 2013.

Conclusion: While Iowa’s Health and Wellness Plan expanded state access to mental health care, it’s not clear if some the estimated enrollees in the program now didn’t have access to mental health care before the state plan started in 2014. Reynolds’ extrapolation from the Human Services report earns a B on this claim.

Claim 3

Analysis: Reynolds’ claim that Iowa’s inpatient psychiatric beds have increased from 721 in January 2016 to 747 now is an echo from Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven, who quoted the same numbers in a budget presentation Nov. 28, saying those beds were staffed and available, according to the Des Moines Register.

The big gains were at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, which has 14 more inpatient psychiatric beds, and Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, which added 17 beds, the department reported to the Fact Checker. The Independence Mental Health Institute got 24 more staffed beds, but at a cost to the Cherokee Institute, which lost the same number.

Oskaloosa’s Mahaska Health Partnership in March closed an eight-bed inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit because of low reimbursement and difficulty finding other transfer facilities, the hospital reported.

A few other hospitals had minor adjustments, up or down.


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The 2017 net gain in psychiatric beds comes after Branstad closed two of the state’s four mental health institutes in 2015.

Conclusion: Reynolds gets an A here.

Claim 4

Analysis: Iowa, like most other states, has a dire shortage of psychiatrists, with most clustered in Polk, Johnson and Linn counties.

In response to this, the Iowa Legislature allocated $4 million in 2016 to create psychiatry residency programs at three Des Moines hospitals — Broadlawns, UnityPoint Health and Mercy Medical Center.

Mercy announced in May it would start training its first residency class in July with 16 residents when all classes have been filled.

Conclusion: Reynolds gets another A.

Overall grade: If we average three As and a B for Reynolds, it rounds up to an A overall.


The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/office holder or a national candidate/office holder about Iowa, or in advertisements that appear in our market. Claims must be independently verifiable. We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan.



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