Hubbell says more community-based mental health programs needed

(Ed Tibbetts/Quad-City Times) Fred Hubbell, Democratic candidate for governor, makes a campaign stop in Davenport on Thursday.
(Ed Tibbetts/Quad-City Times) Fred Hubbell, Democratic candidate for governor, makes a campaign stop in Davenport on Thursday.

Iowa is shirking its responsibility to help people with mental health problems, Fred Hubbell, a Democrat running for governor, said Thursday in Davenport.

He called the state’s response “embarrassing.”

The Des Moines businessman, who is touring the state this week, spent about an hour in the afternoon at the River Music Experience with participants and officials from the Scott County Mental Health Court.

The mental health court, a local pilot project, is aimed at keeping offenders with chronic mental health conditions out of prison through intensive intervention.

The court has long-term funding challenges, though. Lack of transitional housing also is an issue.

Longer-term inpatient psychiatric care is needed to help with people whose problems are so severe they can’t be accommodated in other settings.

Hubbell has proposed adding 50 to 75 long-term inpatient psychiatric beds, and he criticized the state’s decision to close two of its state-run mental health facilities.

Hubbell is one of seven Democrats running for governor, and mental health has been a key part of the campaign. A mental health forum was held among the candidates in Des Moines last month.

This is the second time in the last couple of months that Hubbell has heard from participants and organizers of the mental health court.

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One participant, Shane Wheeler, said he is determined to get through the five-step program, which involves five levels of supervision. Wheeler said without it, he likely would be in prison or dead.

“I love this program and everyone in it,” he said.

Hubbell noted his mental health plan, which was released last month, does not include programs such as the mental health or drug courts. But in an interview afterward, he said they and similar initiatives could be included in community-based programs.

Hubbell said there could be a role for state funding. But, he added, “It could also come from the state allowing local counties to consider whether they want to not limit so much the levy for mental health.”

Scott County, as well as other parts of the state, have complained about state-imposed limits on their ability to raise property taxes to fund mental health services.

Hubbell said he would consider removing those limits.

He also campaigned in Clinton and West Liberty on Thursday and met with party activists in Bettendorf.

His stop at River Music Experience also included a donation to a fundraiser, called the Big Spin, being held for the mental health court later this month.

Supporters of the court are holding a secondhand record sale Jan. 28 at the RiverCenter.

Hubbell’s contribution: Three LPs, including from Neil Diamond and Christopher Cross.

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