Government

Mental health funding proposal gets lukewarm response at Iowa Statehouse

No more money, just increased 'caps' on fund balances

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — An attempt by state lawmakers to find funding for mental health care services is receiving a lukewarm reception from the Iowa counties and regions that deliver the care.

The proposal presented Thursday at the Capitol would provide short-term relief by increasing the allowable fund balances — for mental health and disability services — from 25 percent to 30 percent starting in July 2021.

“We understand what is the intention of the bill, to try to provide the counties with additional resources,” said Jamie Cashman, a lobbyist for organizations representing Iowa county governments and county supervisors, said Thursday. “We just question what the effect would be.”

County officials and leaders of the multicounty mental health care regions have been asking the state for ways to help them adequately fund the services they deliver.

Their requests have included more state funding and the elimination of the cap on the amount of local property taxes counties can collect for mental health care services.

Lawmakers have balked at those requests, instead proposing the fund balance option.

“I don’t see how by raising this to 30 percent that this would truly help counties and regions,” Cashman said. “We currently have counties and regions that are on the hook for thousands of dollars with (health care providers).”

Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for the Polk County supervisors, said counties and regions need a long-term funding solution.

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“This isn’t a solution for us,” she said. “We have to have that discussion (about long-term funding), and I don’t know where we’re going to have that discussion.”

Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, called House File 548 “narrow” in its focus on dealing with counties’ and regions’ funding balances.

“I hear your concerns at the moment, and we will take those under advisement,” Fry said. “This bill will not include anything that is ongoing (funding).”

Fry said the proposal advanced out of an Iowa House subcommittee Thursday and likely will advance out of the House’s health care committee.

l Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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