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Price talks mental health

The Oskaloosa Herald - 9/25/2018

Sept. 25--Democratic Party chair wants to end tax credits to out-of-state companies

OSKALOOSA -- Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price said a shortage of facilities, beds and funding have contributed to a mental health care crisis in Iowa.

Price visited with the Herald on Thursday and has made recent stops across the state, decrying the lack of mental health care resources available. Other Iowa politicians, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell, have shared similar views and a push to step up mental health care options following the closure of two state psychiatric hospitals in 2015 by then-governor Terry Branstad.

"We do not have the number of beds that we should have. We rank dead last in the number of psychiatric beds in the country. We're 47th in the number of psychiatric licenses to provide care in the country as well," he said. "And so what we've seen over and over again is that there's just been a lack of investment in mental health funding across the state. And that's leading to communities that are struggling to try and meet these needs. We [have] more people who are not getting the cares that they need."

Price said he has heard from law enforcement officials that much of their resources are spent dealing with mental health issues. Officers have to drive people to places such as Sioux City or Davenport for a bed; and back again for court dates.

It's basically a revolving door, Price said, because there's not a system to provide care for people with mental health care needs.

"They get some care and then folks are good for a while," he said, "then they stop taking their medicine, then they have an episode, then they get arrested, then they go to the jail and they get some care and then they get better, then they go out."

On top of that, Price said, a lot of mental health care providers across the state rely on Medicaid funding.

"And so what's happening because of this privatized Medicaid, up in Grinnell, they had a clinic close. We've seen clinics close," he said. "I want to say it's about 14 medical and mental health facilities have shut down because of this privatized Medicaid. The thing is, on issue after issue, it's what the Republicans have done, what the GOP has done, what this governor has done, it's hurting rural Iowa."

In order to stop that revolving door, Price said, more mental health bed are needed.

"Which means we need more funding for the mental health services in the state. This administration -- Gov. Branstad but still this administration -- is what closed two mental health facilities here in the state," he said. "Our prisons are becoming mental health institutes. We need more beds."

Price said people should not be thrown in jail just because they have mental health issues.

"They need to get care, they need to be seen by licensed, trained people who actually can help folks, address they have, and then go out and become productive members of society," he said. "But that's not the case here. What we're seeing is we're just throwing people in jail. The way you stop this is by having real programs in communities, real dollars in communities, resources there that can actually help break that cycle and get people onto a path of sustainability and productivity and being healthy and happy in our communities."

That takes funding, Price said.

"The last two years, the legislature has had to go in and do a mid-year budget cut. Well sometimes that happens," he said. "But this is completely self-inflicted and the only reason why it's happening is because we're giving out too many tax credits to out of state corporations."

The only thing the legislature has kept harmless in budget cut conversations, Price said, are tax credits to out of state corporations.

"And so we don't see them trying to hold education harmless. We don't see them trying to hold human services harmless," he said. "No, those take cuts. Human services got like a $5 million cut in the last mid-year budget correction."

Those dollars should be used for other purposes, Price said.

"They keep trying to cut our way into prosperity and we can't do it," he said. "The thing we need to cut is stop giving away our tax dollars to out of state corporations and use those resources to help people get better and help people get the services they need."

Managing editor Angie Holland can be reached at aholland@oskyherald.com and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.

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(c)2018 The Oskaloosa Herald (Oskaloosa, Iowa)

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