Southeast Iowa braces for Governor Kim Reynolds’ mental health bill

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After Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds enacts a bill restricting the amount of money mental health regions are allowed to keep in their accounts, the Southeast Iowa regional link will be busy with trying to figure out how to meet the new demands.

At the Des Moines County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Ken Hynman, disability services coordinator for SEIL, said his group was still trying to determine what it would do when the new rules were adopted.

“Next year will be a year of planning,” Hynman said.

The Iowa mental health system has undergone a litany of changes over the past decade, including the shift from a county-based system to a region-based system. In recent years, regions have also been responsible for an increasing number of services without increased funding.

Under the latest change, mental health will not be funded by property tax money, but by money the state had previously given to cities in the form of property tax relief.

But the funding bill has not only changed the way the region is funded, it has also changed the amount of funding. Although it is being sold as an increase in mental health funding, the reality is that SEIL is set to suffer a massive cut in its budget. Previously, SEIL CEO Ryanne Wood estimated that its funding would drop below current levels for at least five years.

Another sticking point of the bill is the reduction in reserve funds for mental health regions. Des Moines County already lowered its tax levy to the required level when the state mandated the change several years ago. Now regions will be required to reduce their closing fund balance over the next several years until they end up having a closing fund balance below 5%.

Following:Iowa legislature to cut taxes and shift funding for mental health care to state

One of the challenges regions face is how to keep existing mental health staff on the payroll. Counties now have a mental health fund from which they pay their workers. However, counties will no longer have the money to pay for mental health, which leaves the question of what will happen to the mental health workers needed to make the system work.

Hynman said one thing that has been tried is to make the mental health region its own organization with its own employees. Hynman said this has already been done in another mental health region and suggested it may be a fix for Des Moines County. The other option suggested is that Des Moines County could hire employees from the Mental Health Region, which would make them Des Moines County employees.

Another mental health region has already gone through the privatization process, Hynman said, and was able to obtain health insurance for its employees through the Iowa State Association of Counties.

Gravel Roads, Des Moines County Bridge Update 99

Gravel roads are drier than normal this year.

“We dried up very early,” said Brian Carter, Des Moines County engineer.

While it is true that less than a week ago parts of Burlington received two inches of rain in one afternoon, Carter said that rain was mostly localized. West of the greater Burlington area, almost no rain has been observed for some time.

Following:Rainy weather slows work progress on Des Moines County Bridge 99

While too much moisture can be a concern for gravel roads, so can a lack of moisture. Carter told supervisors that without humidity, it can be difficult for his crews to smash the roads.

Carter is hoping the Des Moines County 99 bridge will open in August, although it may remain closed until September. Carter, however, said there was not much will on the part of the contractor, or anyone in the county, to make the project last that long.

Carter said the drier weather will allow the project to be completed as soon as possible.


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