What changes can be expected?Forum will discuss mental health reform
Changes in the adult mental health system and disability services will be the focus of a community conversation that will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Washington Public Library.
Senate file 2315, which was approved last year, changed the funding of Iowa’s mental health and disability services system, shifting greater responsibility to the state and away from the 99-county system. It also set up a new group of “core services” that must be available to all Iowans. Des Moines, Henry, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Van Buren and Washington counties will host the Iowans with Disabilities in Action (ID Action) discussion. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear a short presentation on mental health and disability services redesign and then open a discussion on the impact the changes will have. Representatives from the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council and representatives from the host counties will be present.
“We would encourage anyone to attend who wants to know more about the new legislation,” said Rik Shannon, public policy manager for the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council. “We encourage all individuals who use the services, their family members or advocates and providers to come. We call them stakeholders in the system.”
Shannon said the council has been putting on the conversations so people can learn more about what he referred to as a “fairly ambitious redesign” of the state’s mental health system. He said the group hopes to share information on what changes are taking place in the system, why and how they are occurring, what users can expect and who will be affected. He also said an important part of the discussion will be how the state is going to pay for the changes and what advocates can do to help influence the direction of the legislature in its continuing work on mental health reform.
A concern that has been raised in other forums, Shannon said, is the funding of the mental health programs. He said that some counties have reported being underfunded and had to reduce or eliminate services as a result. He also said the target populations for core services have been discussed.
Shannon said one of the changes is that under the new legislation, people with developmental disabilities or brain injuries can only be given services after the patients identified in the core services requirements are treated.
Washington County mental health and disabilities services director Bobbie Wulf is concerned about some of the changes. She hopes people will come out to the meeting, saying that there is still time to change the mental health reforms.
“We hope to see a response not only from our community but from the other host communities as well,” said Wulf.
Wulf said she is worried that the state will determine managing and approving Medicaid payments. She said the legislature is taking what was the county’s property tax relief funding and federal money and keeping it at the state level.
“I know all the people served around here,” Wulf said. “Now someone in Des Moines is going to determine if someone will receive treatment.”
One advantage Wulf cited of having mental health care locally run is quickness of a decision for treatment. She said that, knowing the patients, she is able to give permission for treatment in minutes. She is concerned that sending a request for treatment to Des Moines could take months for a response.
She raised other concerns, and encouraged people to contact legislators with concerns about the new system.