Bill Orders Partially-Shuttered Mental Health Institute to Reopen

Jun 4, 2015

After weeks of bipartisan negotiations, the Iowa House and Senate last night defied the governor, and voted to have the state continue to operate the Mental Health Institute at Mount Pleasant.  

A spokesman for Governor Branstad says he will carefully review the bill.

By a comfortable margin in the Senate, and a narrow margin in the House, a Health and Human Services budget was approved to hire back laid-off workers at Mount Pleasant and restore mental health services.   Clarinda will stay open through December with a plan to privatize services after that.  

Lawmakers heard a flood of complaints after the governor announced he would close the institutes by July 1st.

 Mason City Democrat Amanda Ragan says the facilities fill a critical need for the mentally ill.

“We listened to all those people who came to us throughout the session,” Ragan says.   “They told us how important it is that these services continue.”

The governor says the facilities are outdated and there are not enough psychiatrists to staff them. 

Advocates refuted those claims at statehouse hearings.  

Mount Pleasant Republican David Heaton says lawmakers worked hard for a bipartisan solution.

“We are carrying the message of Iowans to the governor,” Heaton says, “to ask him to reconsider and ask him to allow one more year at Mount Pleasant.”

The Mental Health institutes are part of a giant Health and Human Services budget bill.   The bill also includes a Democratic initiative to oversee Governor Branstad’s plan to privatize Medicaid.

The budget also restores social services that Republicans had cut, including tobacco prevention and support for direct care workers .    Some Democrats  complain the bill  still spends 90 million less on human services than even the governor proposed.