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State Government News

Mental Health Institute Employees Testify About Hardship of Closings

Joyce Russell
Anna Short (left) a laid-off Drug Abuse Counselor from Mt. Pleasant and Cindy Fedler (right) a laid-off nurse from Mount Pleasant testify before the Iowa Senate Oversight Committee about the demand for in-patient psychiatric services

Democrats in the Iowa Senate heard from employees and former employees at the state’s mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda on Wednesday, after the institutes continue to be targeted by Governor Branstad for closing.

Nurses and other staff say patients and their families are still calling and asking for placements, even though the institutions are not accepting new patients. Ann Davison is a nurse at Clarinda who still has her job, "We've received over 120 calls from across the state, from 66 of the 99 counties."

A nurse at the Mount Pleasant institute who was laid off earlier this month says all but one of the psychiatric patients have been transferred to the mental health institute in Independence, which has caused hardship for families.    

The employees say psychiatrists are available to staff the institutes, though the governor stated a lack of psychiatrists as one reason why he is closing the hospitals. The Senate Oversight Committee is investigating Governor Branstad’s decision to close the facilities.  

Cindy Fedler, a nurse, has been laid off from her job at Mount Pleasant, but says she still hears about demand for services.

"We're not there but our friends still talk to us.  They're still receiving calls. 'Can you get this one in?  I know you haven't shut your doors yet,'" she said.

Employees told lawmakers they’re worried that some of their most severely mentally ill patients won’t  be manageable in private facilities.