DHS Head Says Not Sure More Psychiatric Beds Needed in State

Aug 12, 2015

A third patient has died since being transferred to a private nursing home from the shuttered state mental institution in Clarinda. The news comes as the state’s department of Human Services provided an update on the state’s mental health redesign.

80-year-old Ron Kuker died last week at the Perry Health Center after living there for just less than two months. He made the transfer after Governor Terry Branstad closed the Clarinda facility where he had lived. Mental Illness advocates have raised concerns about the closure of that facility and a similar one in Mount Pleasant. Iowa Director of Human Services Chuck Palmer says he’s not sure if there’s a need for more in-patient psychiatric bed space in Iowa.

“I’m certainly not ruling out more specialized facilities,” Palmer says. “I don’t know that we need quote additional psychiatric beds, but I’ll have a better take on that after I see the data.”

Palmer tells an advisory board the state’s mental health system is serving more people and providing more modern care. This month, the state has started a new bed-tracking system to provide better information about what kind of services are needed in the state. Palmer says this new technology will make things clearer.

Palmer says there are more than 700 beds for adult inpatient psychiatric care in 27 private hospitals. Palmer says his department’s budget is not complete and he has no intention to close the remaining state-run mental health facilities in Cherokee and Independence.