The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 26, 2012

Anxiety over mental health overhaul

County officials voice concerns on how it will affect funding; worry change could worsen care

OTTUMWA — State Rep. Mary Gaskill is concerned about a mental health bill currently making its way through the Iowa Legislature. The bill, as of Wednesday, she said, could impact Wapello County’s bottom line when it comes to funding mental health services.

The Iowa House approved the measure on a 65-32 vote this week, returning it to the Iowa Senate, where a similar version has been approved.

Gaskill, D-Ottumwa, argues that more studies are needed before enacting such a significant overhaul of a large, complicated and expensive system. She noted that a statewide mental health system could worsen care in some counties where funding has been strong but improve it in other counties where funding has been minimal.

“What you are doing is picking winners and losers, and we are losers,” she said. “Our costs are going to go up.”

“What I’d like to see happen is to put off that freezing of the levy for a year and get some data on what happens,” she told the Courier on Wednesday. “And, I’d like to put off the regional [network] for at least a year or two of the minimum things.”

For those counties with problems, Gaskill said it’s easier for them to apply for money so they can get through the system.

“And they need to give us a year to get into the process,” she said. “We set the $48.47 as sort of an arbitrary number. Those below the number in the funding will get help from the state.”

But, Wapello County won’t get help and the majority of legislators said Wapello County has to go down to $48.47 and use the ending fund balance to cover some expenditures.

“We can use the ending fund balance, but in two years that’s gone. That’s why we’re upset,” Gaskill said. “We have to get this a year down the road and get things done before it’s fully implemented.”

The $48.47 is the mental health levy,  and it’s capped at that amount.

Gaskill also noted Wapello County leaders “feel they cannot generate enough to keep the system running past two years.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Gaskill said she was disappointed by the talk of pulling $30 million from the education budget items — such as preschool — to help pay for mental health reform.

“I don’t think that’s right,” she said.

Marlys Breon-Drish oversees the Promise Center in downtown Ottumwa. On Wednesday, she said more than 450 people signed a petition at the Promise Center expressing concerns about the proposed legislation.

“People are concerned about [Wapello County],” she added.

Breon-Drish said the text on the petition reads as follows: “We, the undersigned are concerned citizens who urge our elected officials to let the property tax levy for mental health services be a local county decision.

“We have to reinstate the property tax level. The state can set a minimum,  but we need to keep our county level.

“I’m not sure anyone knows the impact of this reform bill as of yet,” she said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 0424 OTT Lottery addiction graphic -T -L -M Hoping for riche$ — Part 3

    OTTUMWA — At first, George bought a lottery ticket once or twice a week. Nothing big. Spent $1 or $2 at a time. As the big jackpots rolled around, he’d purchase a few more tickets. No big deal, he thought. Soon, playing the lottery became his obsessi

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • 0424 OTT Pennsylvania construction color photo -M -T Penn Ave. construction begins Thursday

    OTTUMWA — Motorists are advised that Pennsylvania Avenue will be closing for Stage 1 of the Pennsylvania Avenue Reconstruction and Widening Project on Thursday. Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed from just downhill from the intersection with Jefferso

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0425 OTT eagle stock photo Mahaska Co. man accused of killing bald eagle NEW SHARON — A Mahaska County man faces federal charges after allegedly beating a bald eagle to death and decapitating it. Jason John Thomas was arrested in New Sharon after being indicted by a federal grand jury. He is accused of killing the eagle i

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pedersen: Spec. Ed. students should count ELDON — If you're going to publish graduation rates, stop excluding some children who are doing well. "In some ways, I think it's a little upsetting to the parents of a child who has a physical handicap or is otherwise [in special education], that th

    April 23, 2014

  • Youth playing with guns panic Fairfield residents FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Police Department received two calls Tuesday from concerned citizens reporting kids with guns in the vicinity of both elementary schools. In both incidents, the guns were actually pellet guns but looked real. According to a

    April 23, 2014

  • Interpreter bill approved in kidnapping case OTTUMWA — A filing in an Ottumwa case illustrates one of the basic tenets of the American legal system and its costs. Adem Anota is charged with one count of kidnapping. The charge is a Class A felony, among the most serious and one of only a few cri

    April 23, 2014

  • Van Buren OKs teacher pay hike KEOSAUQUA — The Van Buren Community School Board ratified a master contract with its certified staff members recently. Superintendent Dr. Pam Ewell, the Van Buren Education Association and the district reached a settlement which calls for increasing

    April 23, 2014

  • 'Ride With the Clowns' bike event full of fun OTTUMWA — This bike ride is a joke. No, seriously. The 10th annual "Ride With the Clowns" spring tune-up is set for Saturday, May 3, and this fun ride is sponsored by the Ottumwa Shrine Club Clown Unit. "It draws a regular crowd," said Mark Merringer

    April 23, 2014

  • The most fun you ever had

    OTTUMWA — Not every child's idea will be possible — but every idea was recorded. "Kaboom" project manager Brenna Hull of the nonprofit group's San Francisco office was in Ottumwa Tuesday. She asked students at the Ottumwa school district what they'd like to see in a playground.

    April 22, 2014

  • 0423 OTT Recycle center color photo 2 -T -M Where every day is Earth Day

    OTTUMWA — Putting cans in the correct bin, saving electricity and adjusting the thermostat are not new concepts to the Ottumwa/Wapello Recycling Center staff. "We try to practice what we preach," said Janice Bain,

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition