An eastern Iowa legislator has offered a very short and simple bill that he hopes will provide an avenue to save several state-operated facilities and the jobs that come with them.
Senate File 140, offered yesterday by state Sen. Rich Taylor (D-Mt. Pleasant), if signed into law, would add only 17 words to the current fiscal year’s budget. The impact of those few words, however, takes a great many more to explain.
The proposed legislation would direct the Iowa Department of Human Services to open the state’s four mental health institutes to any eligible patients. The state operates its MHI facilities in Cherokee, Clarinda, Independence, and Mt. Pleasant, but the facilities in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant have been slated for closure due to a lack of patients.
Currently, the Clarinda MHI has 24 patients who are served by 76 full-time employees at a cost of $8.6 million. The Mt. Pleasant MHI currently serves 47 patients with 83 full-time employees at a cost of $6.9 million.
The closure plan put forth by Gov. Terry Branstad was recommended by Iowa Department of Human Services director Chuck Palmer. It calls for the transition of Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant patients to community-based programs, or to the other MHI facilities in Independence and Cherokee.
SF 140 has the support of AFSCME Iowa Council 61. The Coalition for Family and Children’s Services in Iowa, and the Iowa Association of Community Providers are both “undecided” about the proposed legislation at this time.