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Are All Four Needed?

February 11, 2015

Are Four State Mental Health Institutes Needed in Iowa?

Governor Branstad proposed several weeks ago the closure of two of the four state regional Mental Health Institutes. He cites the cost inefficiencies of the MHI’s and proposes the expansion of community based services. Compared to how private organizations, like Hillcrest Family Services, operate our mental health programs under extreme cost control.  I agree with the Governor on the cost inefficiency and need for expansion. I disagree on his lack of true efforts to fund program expansion.

The front page story in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald today (February 11, 2015) cited a families concern that the closure of the MHI in Mt. Pleasant will prevent others from receiving the much needed services that their son received. I agree as the lack of funding for community based services often leaves the MHI’s as the last resort. I also agree on a personal level as the MHI in Independence was a gift of hope for my Korean War veteran uncle in the 1960s. Today he would be diagnosed with PTSD.  In times of crisis families need services not rhetoric from politicians and bureaucrats.

Hillcrest had to close our forty bed adult mental health residential treatment facility in Ottumwa Iowa on October 28, 2014. When seeking support to keep it open, the Iowa Director of Mental Health said that everyone should be in a five bed community based home. Yet he offered no help or advocacy to pay for this more costly expansion. The realities of the needs of one of our former residents with chronic mental illness required this same State Leader to have to influence a MHI to admit that person when no one would accept him into their community.  This occurred on the last day before the gentleman became homeless after everyone was given two months of advance notice.

It is very good to preach about governmental inefficiencies, expansion of community services, and the ideal places for all people to live. It is not at all good to not follow that up with concrete, immediate plans to provide the resources to fulfill these dreams.

It is time to move ahead and fully fund mental health services for all Iowans. Community Mental Health funding needs the priority that school funding gets every year.


Gary L. Gansemer