The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 15, 2013

Clinton County not on list for funding

CLINTON — House lawmakers on Wednesday approved a bill allotting $11.6 million to some counties for the continued treatment of mental health patients through the transition to a regional delivery system.    

Thirty-two counties applied for the funds through the Department of Human Services. Of the 26 who were selected, nearby Scott County would receive the most at $2.4 million. Clinton County was one of six counties that applied for a part of the funding, but was ultimately shut out, leaving them without transitional funds under House File 160.  

According to Clinton County Mental Health Coordinator Becky Eskildsen, Clinton County wasn’t awarded funding because it projected to have a balance at the end of the coming fiscal years. Eskildsen said the county projected a balance because of cuts officials made in anticipation of the negative impact caused by regionalized service.   

Legislators last spring passed a bill for a statewide levy of $47.28.  While this won’t be a drastic change for some counties, Clinton County will lose more than $10 per taxpayer, causing a roughly $600,000 shortfall.  

“We made some cuts to be proactive. Now in hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have,” Eskildsen said.

Rep. Lisa Heddens, D-Ames, asked the House to award $20 million from the general fund that would afford some money to all counties that requested it instead of the $11.6 from the Department of Human Services. House Republicans killed Hedden’s amendment 53-47.  

Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, was blocked from reading two amendments to the bill. One would have afforded counties the ability to continue levying at their current rates for a period of two years.  

Wolfe voted in favor of the Heddens amendment and against the bill once it was clear Clinton wouldn’t receive funding.   

 “I’m very disappointed that number one, the Heddens amendment didn’t pass, instead something passed that doesn’t fund every county. I’m also disappointed that the majority party manipulated the process so I couldn’t even present my amendments,” Wolfe said.

The bill passed through the house, 58-42. It now moves on to the Senate. In addition to dismay over the funding inequity, Wolfe said she has concerns about the stipulations associated with the $11.6 million.   

“I  think a bill that fails to fund mental health in a few counties is not good for Iowa. There are problems with this bill other than the fact that Clinton County is not getting money,” Wolfe said. “There are strict federal guidelines attached and counties that accept this money could be subject to a federal audit that those counties would have to pay for.”

Rep. Steve Olson, R-DeWitt, voted against the Heddens amendment and in support of the final bill. Olson could not be reached for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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