DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa House Appropriations Committee has approved a funding plan for the redesign of Iowa’s patchwork mental health delivery system, but even its sponsor called it only “a starting point.”
The move is Republicans’ attempt to remove the funding instability that has plagued the mental health system, floor manager Rep. Renee Schulte, R-Cedar Rapids, said Thursday.
There’s general agreement among Democrats and Republicans and the House and Senate on the policy proposals to redesign Iowa’s county-based mental-health system into a statewide effort, where services would be administered regionally and delivered locally.
“The problem has been lack of stability in the funding,” Schulte said. “This is not the final version. This is a starting point for negotiations with Senate.”
Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, agrees. He made clear the Senate will not accept the House Republican plan for the state to pay for mental health services out of the general fund. Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee voiced concerns with the funding plan, warning the Legislature may be overcommitting state resources.
A state takeover of the funding potentially sets up a funding competition between mental health services for children and adults, said Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames.
Majority Democrats in the Senate want to maintain current county mental health levy, arguing that state can’t afford to assume the full cost and local involvement is good for the mental health system, Hatch said.
“The property tax levy provides stability to the system when the state money goes up and down or doesn’t go up fast enough,” Hatch said.
Republicans, who hold a 60-40 edge in the House, want the state to assume about $25 million of the mental-health costs annually until the financial burden is totally shifted to the state over five years. However, some estimates put the eventual total closer to $275 million a year.
“I don’t know if we can maintain that,” Heddens said. She voted for the bill to keep it moving through the legislative process.
The committee voted 20-5 to send the bill to the full House. The Senate earlier approved it 32-18.