Reform of mental health a great success
In my last newsletter I summarized the progress made on the state budget. This week I am going to give you the final story on Mental Health reform for this year (SF 2315). I want to assure you that if there are problems with the execution of the plan, it will be addressed in future sessions of the General Assembly. I also recognize the local issues with the current system as identified by local officials in recent weeks and constituents who contacted me directly with very personal and emotional problems.
One of the biggest achievements in the Legislature over the past two years has been the reform and redesign of the mental health system and services provided to Iowans. This system serves some of Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens and we have a responsibility to help those that cannot help themselves. The services received by our citizens with mental health needs should not be dependent on where a person lives in the state.
The redesign includes the creation of mental health service regions to provide local management of the system, establishment of a core set of services that would be offered in all parts of the state, changing financial responsibility determination from county of legal settlement to residency, and improving data collection. The redesign does provide for counties to continue operating on their own, if they can meet the criteria required for regions.
The mental health property tax levy would be revised in FY 2014, and will be based on a per capita amount. The per capita property tax rate target is set at $47.28 per person in the county. Counties currently levying above the target will be required to reduce their levy to the per capita levy amount of $47.28. This change is estimated to reduce the statewide total of property taxes collected for mental health by $10 million. Counties with a levy below the per capita target would receive an equalization payment from the state; therefore no one will see an increase in their county property taxes due to the mental health levy or changes to the system.
There are other provisions that will provide for better and more efficient delivery of services including standardized assessments and standards for the provision of case management which will be implemented to ensure fair access to services across the state. It is important that Iowans get the services they need in an effective and efficient manner that helps Iowans and also provides the best service for the taxpayers of Iowa.
In a separate bill, but a closely related issue, we addressed Mental Health redesign issues within the DHS and the judicial branch.
Senate File 2314 implements a number of recommendations from the Judicial Branch/DHS Workgroup regarding improvements to mental health proceedings within the judicial system. The bill includes:
-Establishing standards for law enforcement continuing education in the field of mental health
-Expanding access to pre-assessment screenings
-Setting consistent definitions for “Mental Health Professionals”
-Establishing standards for mental health advocates
-Studying the consolidation of commitment provisions and studying implementation of a statewide jail diversion program
This year was the first significant attempt at reform of the entire mental health system in many years. I am happy we made progress, but there will be more to come in future sessions of the Iowa General Assembly.