Hubbell's new ads call mental health cuts 'brutal'

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful blames state's GOP administration

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Democratic governor hopeful Fred Hubbell calls Gov. Kim Reynolds’ cut to mental health care “a brutal thing” in television and radio ads.

Hubbell, one of seven Democrats running for the party’s 2018 gubernatorial nomination, says Iowa’s mental health system has “collapsed into crisis” because of funding cuts he blames on the Republican governor.

“The governor is cutting funding for mental health in our state and they’ve got people in the hallways, lying in beds, with no place to go,” the retired businessman says in his second TV ad and his first radio ad of the primary election campaign. “That’s just not how we take care of people. That’s not how we build our state.”

Hubbell and his wife, Charlotte, who is heard and seen in the 30-second television spot and one-minute radio ad, are critical of “severe cuts” to mental health funding by Reynolds and her predecessor, GOP Gov. Terry Branstad, as well as closing mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda and cutting psychiatric beds for children at another facility.

The cuts, “coupled with the continued Medicaid privatization disaster” are choking existing mental health facilities, the Hubbells say.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit promoting timely and effective treatment of mental illness, Iowa ranks “dead last in the number of psychiatric treatment beds available per capita,” and “47th in the number of psychiatrists licensed to provide care,” Hubbell said.

A spokesman for the Reynolds campaign called the ad “obviously wrong and dishonest.”

“Iowa has invested more than $2 billion into the mental health system over the past few years, reformed the system to deliver care in a modern and local way, and 150,000 more Iowans have mental health coverage than when (Branstad) took office in 2011,” Pat Garrett said.

He also cited a report that Iowa was rated seventh best state for mental health care among the states.

“We know there is more to do. Gov. Reynolds cares deeply about this problem and is working on improving mental health care every single day,” Garrett said.

In contrast to Reynolds’ efforts, he added, Hubbell “is playing the type of political games Iowans are sick of, running misleading ads and proposing no real solutions.”

Earlier this week, Hubbell specifically called out the governor over the closure of an informal mental health facility in Centerville due to a lack of funding from the state and regional mental health authority. Hubbell called for more inpatient and outpatient beds as well as mental health counselors and psychiatrists — “and not just in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.”

“I can’t tell you how many times I’m hearing, no matter what part of the state you start in, there’s somebody who has a mental health issues and they can’t find a bed locally,” he said. “So they’re driving to Davenport or to Sioux City or to Mason City or to Des Moines regardless of where they are in the state. It’s just not working.”

Fixing the problem will take money and commitment, he said.

“But if we really want to address quality of life in our state we really need to take a much stronger position in this area,” he said.

In the ads, the Hubbells talk about their personal efforts to fund a new building at their hospital and an increase in beds for mental health services.

The television ad will begin airing Saturday. The radio spot started airing Wednesday. The ads can be seen or heard at FredHubbell.com.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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