Lawmakers agree to $11.6M for mental health

DES MOINES – State lawmakers said Tuesday they have reached a bipartisan deal to provide $11.6 million to counties to fund mental health services in the current budget year.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said Republican and Democratic lawmakers have agreed to the funding plan, which will help counties with expenses as the state transitions to a new regional mental health treatment system. The funding for services through June 30 is substantially more than Gov. Terry Branstad proposed, but not as much as counties requested.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor wants to review lawmakers’ proposal before supporting the new figure.

Thirty-four counties applied for transition money but 26 will actually receive it. Under the governor’s proposal, 11 counties would have received funding.

“This is thrilling news for a lot of counties in financial duress,” said Lisa Rockhill, who administers mental health services for rural Lyon and Osceola counties, both of which will get transition money. “We’re up against a wall every month trying to figure out what we can pay for.”

She said if they didn’t get the $406,771 in extra funding, the counties would be unable to pay local service providers who run sheltered workshops and homes for those with intellectual disabilities.

The Legislature approved changes to Iowa’s mental health treatment system last May, shifting from one run by counties to a more regional approach in which counties pool their money.

The new approach was meant to minimize differences between urban and rural areas.