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Democrats Criticize Deal to Delay Mental Health Institute Closings

John Pemble/IPR
Iowa State Capitol

A Republican lawmaker who negotiated an agreement with the Governor to delay the closings of the mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda is defending the plan against Democratic critics.

Representative David Heaton of Mount Pleasant says without the compromise, the Governor would have used his veto power to force the closings on June 30th

Under the compromise, the facilities will stay open through December 15th, and then later reopen as private facilities.   

Democrats in the Iowa Senate have voted to keep the institutes open through June of 2016, and

House democrats criticized the compromise.

“What if no one agrees to take over the facilities?” asked Cedar Rapids Democrat Todd Taylor.

“If we can't find the providers the facilities will close just as they would have done if we'd passed the legislation you wanted,” Heaton replied.   “I'm trying to keep the lights on in those two communities.”   

Heaton admits there’s no guarantee that private providers will step up to take over the institutes.

“I can't guarantee the agencies will be there,” Heaton says, “and I can’t keep the facilities open because of the governor’s veto power.”

Under the compromise, on December 16th  all references to Mount Pleasant and Clarinda will be stricken from the lawbooks.   Heaton says that’s the only way the Governor would agree to delay the closings.

Heaton adds the compromise was “the best we could do.”