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The Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee will make decisions about the future of the regional mental health and disability (MH/DS) services system this year.  The Governor has recommended $0 for the system; regions had planned to get about $30 million from the state to support non-Medicaid services.  The Department of Human Services has a plan to provide about half that amount using federal funds from the Social Services Block Grant ($11.7 million) and Community Mental Health Center Block Grant ($2.3 million), but some of those funds were already being used for services.  The budget subcommittee has said they will begin meeting in mid-March to address the funding of the system, and decide:

  • How much each region needs (region budget - local property taxes collected = amount of state funds needed)
  • Where the money will come from
  • How to fund the system long-term (permanent funding)

Rep. Dave Heaton of Mt. Pleasant and Rep. Lisa Heddens of Ames do not give up easy.  While the two may not agree on politics (one is a Republican, the other a Democrat), they do agree on the need to modernize Iowa's mental health advocate law.  The judicial work group of the mental health and disability services redesign recommended changes; legislators passed those changes three years ago, but the Governor vetoed it.  Rep. Heaton and Rep. Heddens tried again last year, but the effort fell short.  They are back at it this year, and it looks like they may have finally struck a deal that the Governor will sign.  A subcommittee passed House File 91 this week, making Iowa's mental health advocates county employees while creating protections so they remain independent (and able to represent the best interests of a person with mental illness being committed).  The bill will go before the entire House Human Resources Committee next week.

 Discussions continue on the prioritization of people on home and community based services (HCBS) waiver waiting lists.The Department of Human Services requested a bill - House Study Bill 82 - to allow them to set rules prioritizing people on waiting list according to level of need.  Advocates expressed concern about the bill, saying they would like to see more detail about how the prioritization would be done, and asking that legislators require stakeholder involvement in those decisions.  Legislators were willing to do that, but with the inclusion of waiver services in the Medicaid managed care plan, legislators may decide to wait and see first how things progress with managed care.