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Iowa Senate panel approves mental health spending bill

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 11:34 a.m. CST

DES MOINES (AP) — An Iowa Senate panel unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that calls for spending nearly $30 million on the state’s new regionalized mental health care system.

With passage by the Senate Appropriations Committee, the measure moves to the full Senate. The bill would provide $29.8 million in state funding over the next fiscal year for counties to administer mental health services not covered by Medicaid.

It’s the next step in funding a plan to coordinate mental health care on a region-based system. Counties would get about $18.4 million starting July 1 and another $11.4 million in Jan.

The Senate plan designates the $11.4 million for counties expected to be short on cash in the next fiscal year so they can continue serving residents with mental health issues. The $18.4 million will be given out based on expected population growth of each county.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said the Senate’s plan makes sure every county gets something.

“This new distribution process gives counties more predictability,” he said.

Rep. Dave Heaton, R-Mount Pleasant, said House Republicans haven’t decided how they plan to distribute money to counties but they want the funding to go through the new regions rather than individual counties.

“We advocate that the regions share their resources,” he said.

Heaton says under the House plan, counties wouldn’t see a slice of the $29 million until 2014 because that’s when regional boards will take over control of mental health services in the state.

The bill also creates a board to develop strategies to improve children’s health in the state called the Children’s Cabinet. It would be comprised of the state Department of Human Services, lawmakers and community members.

The Iowa Department of Public Health would also be responsible for establishing a center to develop children’s health policy called the Center for Child Health Innovation and Excellence.