The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

December 11, 2012

Mental health legislation will create difficulty for local patients

CLINTON — I have a grave concern about the future of our mental health system in Iowa.

First of all I would like to commend the people who have set the goal of giving all citizens across Iowa, regardless of locale, equal accessibility to mental health services.

As with all goals it must be attainable and realistic. And it cannot be done by denying services for some while giving more services to others. I do not believe that the legislators or the Iowa Department of Human Services are intentionally trying to put mental health agencies or collateral agencies out of business.

However that is what may happen unless this law is revisited by our legislators.

Having worked as a therapist at Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center in Clinton for over 5 years I have seen many people helped by services through Bridgeview or agencies associated with Bridgeview.

Last year Bridgeview served over 4,000 unique clients in different capacities of service. These services included individual therapy at Bridgeview as well as school-based individual therapy, co-occurring group treatment, borderline group therapy, anger management, community support services, domestic violence counseling, couple’s coaching and couple’s counseling, family therapy, play therapy, psychiatric services, medication intervention and management, psychological evaluations, education, teenscreen, love and logic parenting classes, consults, emergencies and others. Many of these clients received multiple services.

Since Oct. 1 Bridgeview has lost two very valuable employees because of the budget cuts that are a direct result of the Mental Health Reform law passed by our state legislators.

These people served clients in multiple ways including education, parenting classes, domestic violence counseling, anger management, couple’s coaching and public relations.

Other areas at risk of ceasing since the passage of the bill include client assistance obtaining free or reduced medication, assistance with paperwork to obtain disability, 24-hour emergency service and the extended services that the nurse practitioners provide on a daily basis to clients.

Clinton County has been proactive in providing funding for mental health services. Since the Mental Health Reform Bill was passed earlier this year the $465,000 block grant that helped provide mental health services to programs and individuals with little or no insurance was terminated as of Oct. 1.

This money was cut because Clinton County had to reduce the funding for mental health by about $586,000 annually due to the proponents of the bill’s insistence that counties may only levy $47.28 (Clinton County has been assessing $58.38) for mental health. Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center cannot afford to continue to lose money at this rate and stay viable let alone provide the services that are vital to our residents. This cut has also affected Pathway Living Center, County Case Management, the Women’s Shelter, Domestic Violence Prevention Services and other agencies whose budgets are partially funded by county monies.

I am unsure how this will affect agencies in other counties.

I do know however that citizens in Clinton County will be affected in a huge way. Services that have been offered in the past will not be available.

People may have to travel across one, two or more counties to receive services that were provided in their home county prior to the passing of the bill. This is a problem for several reasons: first, transportation prices continue to skyrocket; second, many of the people we serve have no means of transportation outside Clinton; third, the amount of school time missed by students who can no longer receive services in their county of origin may be increased appreciably; fourth, there may be an appreciable increase in work time lost because clients will have to travel farther for mental health services.

I am imploring the citizens of Clinton County and other counties in our region (Scott, Jackson, Cedar and Muscatine) to contact their legislators asking them to carefully consider all the ramifications of the Mental Health Reform bill as it has been proposed.

David Sievers,

Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center

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