Fred Hubbell Unveils ‘Mental Health Reform Plan’ to Expand Mental Health Care And Address Iowa’s Growing Mental Health Crisis

Fred Hubbell Unveils ‘Mental Health Reform Plan’ to Expand Mental Health Care And Address Iowa’s Growing Mental Health Crisis

As Governor Reynolds Continues To Ignore Iowa’s Mental Health Crisis, Hubbell’s Plan Proposes An Expansion Of Mental Health Services By Supporting Local Community Solutions, Increasing The Number Of Overall Beds And Doctors, And Organizing An Actual Children’s Mental Health Program.

Today, Fred Hubbell, Democratic candidate for governor of Iowa, is proposing a mental health reform plan to properly address the growing mental health crisis in Iowa. Iowa ranks dead last in the country for state psychiatric beds per capita, according to a new report from the Treatment Advocacy Center. Last year, the state had 64 beds for adult mental health patients, which translates to 2 beds for every 100,000 Iowans. Kansas, Missouri, and South Dakota each have about 15 beds per 100,000 residents and the national average is about 12 beds per 100,000 residents. Recently, the the Branstad-Reynolds’ administration unilaterally closed two of the four state mental health institutes, and slashed the number of beds in a third, exacerbating the shortage. In addition, the privatization of Medicaid and the switch to the current private managed care system of just two managed care organizations has financially strapped providers, some, to the point of closure.

Hubbell’s proposal follows a statewide mental health tour, where Fred met with mental health providers, patients, community specialists, and law enforcement officials to understand the crisis from those on the frontlines while discussing possible solutions. In addition, Fred and his wife, Charlotte, have been involved with issues surrounding mental health for years. They recently helped Broadlawns Medical Center increase their bed capacity by 50 percent, re-do the mental health ward, and add a whole new building for treatment.

“In every town, every community, every home, we visit across the state, the issue of mental health and the  struggles Iowans are facing comes up,” said Fred Hubbell. “We need to do better. We need a governor who can manage Iowa’s budget properly and instead of ignoring what’s happening with mental health, will take meaningful steps to address the crisis.”

In addition, addressing our mental health crisis in a more prevention-focused manner could actually lower the overall costs Iowa communities pay in the long-term. Because of the severe lack of community treatment facilities, those in need of mental health care end up in our jails and emergency rooms, as last resorts. It costs more than $30,000 annually to incarcerate a person in an Iowa prison, and the average emergency room visit costs upwards of $1,000. Growing evidence shows that by investing in community based mental health facilities and diversion programs in county jails, costs can be substantially lowered.

“Iowans are paying a high human cost and also high financial costs because of the inadequacies of our mental health system,” Hubbell added. “Because of fiscal mismanagement and short-sighted policies to close down mental health institutes by the Branstad-Reynolds administration while instituting the privatized Medicaid system we have today, across the board we lack adequate beds and mental health professionals to properly treat those in need. Many Iowans are now forced into jails and emergency rooms for treatment, which are incredibly costly to the community. There is proven research that by supporting community based mental health treatments and focusing on more diversion in addition to prevention, our jails can reduce recidivism in addition to less utilization of our costly emergency room services. I am proposing real solutions to address this very real problem plaguing our communities. I look forward to working with other Democrats and Republicans who want to stop talking about partisan politics and start delivering real results for Iowans.”

Key Components of Fred’s Mental Health Plan:

  • Reverse Reynolds’ disastrous Medicaid privatization failure and establish a review of the Iowa Medicaid Enterprise to determine the most cost-efficient program that provides the necessary services for patients and efficient distribution of beds and services across the state.
  • Empower local communities to determine their needs and support local community-based programs to address prevention, crisis management, and short-term crisis intervention.
  • Establish reimbursement schedules for Iowa providers that require a timely pay cycle to relieve the severe cash flow burden on practitioners, hospitals, and nursing homes around the state.
  • Add at least 50-75 high-intensity mental health beds for in-patient treatment in a public/private partnership.
  • Encourage more utilization of tele-psych services to bring improved behavioral health services to rural and underserved areas.
  • Bring mental health and addiction services into closer and more efficient coordination in state government. The state currently manages them separately even though they are interrelated and often co-occurring. The state should manage them together.
  • One in five youth will experience a serious debilitating mental illness that reaches epidemic proportions. We need a public health approach to education, outreach, identification and treatment with established measures that tell us how we are progressing on this critical threat to children’s health and wellbeing.  
  • Create a first-of-its kind state program for children’s mental health. This program will encourage programs and partnerships with school districts for identification, prevention, and treatment for children.  We must include pediatricians and family physicians into the mental health screening process for youth. This effort would lead to early identification and treatment which brings improved quality and fiscal outcomes.
  • Apply for the SAMHSA expansion grant for System of Care, an evidence-based approach which improves coordination of care, keeps children and families together, and decreases cost. SAMHSA offered system of care expansion grants in 2013 and 2016, but Iowa did not apply. All of Iowa’s surrounding states applied for these grants. Iowa currently has four sites doing System of Care. DHS has proposed to cut these funds in FY 2019 as a cost containment measure.  
  • Provide more assistance to local law enforcement and addiction service providers to deal with the opioid crisis and other substance abuse, while partnering with the Attorney General to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for costs and damages to Iowans.
  • Work with local communities to actively support jail and prison diversion programs, including after-care to reduce recidivism. It costs more than $30,000 annually to incarcerate a person in an Iowa prison. Based on local examples, using this money for drug and alcohol addiction and mental health services can do much more in the long-term and will result in saving the taxpayers’ money by reducing recidivism.

Fred’s full mental health proposal can be viewed HERE.

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