Uncertainty around Iowa’s still-evolving mental health system redesign starts with money.
Reps. Linda Miller, R-Bettendorf, and Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, spoke Friday at a United Way of the Quad-Cities Area forum on the changing mental-health system, telling about 40 mental-health professionals to call legislators across the state to advocate for needed funding.
Scott County’s mental-health funding is in a dire financial crisis that would be helped by transition funding this year and next year, helping ease some of that uncertainty, said Lori Elam, Scott County’s community services director.
“It doesn’t help plan for fiscal year 2014 when we can’t get through ‘13,” Elam said. “We can’t talk about regionalization when we don’t have the money to pay bills.”
Scott County is part of a developing mental-health region that will also provide services in Cedar, Clinton, Jackson and Muscatine counties.
Scott County and other counties need $11.7 million to get through the end of the current fiscal year, Elam explained, then an additional $29 million for fiscal year 2014 as the new system transitions its funding.
Miller explained that a separate bill needs to be passed through the Iowa Legislature for the $11.7 million and not mixed in with other allocations. She urged the mental-health professionals to contact legislators, asking them to pass a separate bill quickly
“You need to make the argument to do it now before it gets away,” she said. “The faster the better. We need to move the leaders.”
Winckler agreed with her colleague.
“The advocacy needs to occur now,” she said. “If needs are identified, they can be addressed.
“We want to make sure we meet the needs at the time they occur.”
Both legislators acknowledged the state has a significant budget surplus to fill in gaps, but Miller emphasized that the state needs to make sure programs are sustainable through sound budgeting principles.
While financing is a big uncertainty, other questions remain such as how services will be administered and delivered in the area, whether that is through satellite offices or video links.
“That will come down the pike as we continue to speak,” Elam said.
Scott County’s region is still working on an intergovernmental agreement that would guide policies and services. Regions must be in compliance with the mental-health reform law by June 30, 2014, with the new system beginning July 1, 2014.