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1st County - But Likely Not Last - Unable To Pay Mental-Health Costs

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Monday, August 19, 2013   

DES MOINES, Iowa - The legislature approved moving from a county-by-county mental health system in Iowa to a regional system. The result was that when people moved from one county to another that county would have to shoulder the cost of the new residents. Lawmakers set aside $13 million to help counties during the switch but Governor Terry Branstad vetoed the money.

O'Brien County is the first to run out of money for services, but according to Rik Shannon with the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, it probably won't be the last.

"I don't know that you will see county after county but I don't believe O'Brien County is an isolated case," he said. "I think there are likely to be other counties."

Shannon said the end result may be that people needing mental health services will have to wait in line.

"What counties do when they don't have the money to meet the need is they'll establish waiting lists for people," he said. "People will be on waiting lists for those services; as other people go off, those people may have the opportunity to come on."

O'Brien County suddenly had to cover costs for an additional 40 residents, which would put the county a million dollars in the red by the end of the fiscal year. Next year the new federally-financed national health insurance program kicks in, which the governor says will provide more than enough funding.

However, many legislators plan to try to reinstate the money which they convene in January. In the meantime additional counties may face the kind of budget shortfall experienced in O'Brien County.




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