116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / Opinion / Staff Editorials
Fully fund Linn and Johnson access centers
We believe it would be a shortsighted decision to underfund mental health access centers in Linn and Johnson County. The centers provide care to people who are in a mental health crisis or who face a substance abuse situation, either through walk-ins or in cooperation with law enforcement agencies. Underfunding these critical services makes no sense, considering it could reduce the availability of services and curtail hours the centers can be open.
“That's the whole point of access centers is the access,” said Linn County Supervisor Rogers, according to reporting by The Gazette’s Marissa Payne. Rogers represents the county on the East Central Mental Health Region board which oversees funding for mental health needs in Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque, Iowa, Johnson, Jones and Linn counties.
We agree with Rogers. Linn County requested $1.875 million to fund its access center and Johnson County requested $1.4 million. A preliminary budget allocates $1.25 million to each access center. At the same time, the region is projecting a $5.8 million budget surplus.
We see no reason to shortchange the access centers, built with large investments by Linn and Johnson counties to build a large surplus. Payne reported that surplus dollars must be returned to the state, which funds mental health regions. Rather than do that, the region makes decisions late in the budget year as to how to spend those dollars. This strikes us as a misguided budgeting practice.
Access center services are available to all residents in the nine county region. County officials contend the centers have not received enough funding to handle growing needs. Along with inadequate regional funding, the centers have been hit by low Medicaid reimbursement rates.
The state provides funding for the region, and more state funding is needed. But that argument is undermined when east central region builds a budget socking away surplus funds.
The access centers are an innovative effort to address emergency mental health needs that were once left in the hands of law enforcement agencies unequipped to handle them. The Linn and Johnson facilities are the only ones in Iowa designated as access centers by the state.
They deserve adequate funding to do a difficult, critical job. We urge the region to rectify the situation by providing more dollars in a modified budget plan to be unveiled this month.
(319) 398-8262; firstname.lastname@example.org
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to email@example.com