News Article Details

Mental health levy may fall

Clinton Herald - 4/29/2017

April 29--CLINTON -- Legislation passed during the Iowa Legislature's recent session will change the way mental health tax levies will be set in each county.

Under the passed House File 650/Senate File 504, counties in each predetermined mental health region throughout the state will essentially have the same mental health tax levy, regionwide. Levies in each region do not have to be the same compared to other regions, however.

The three-year legislation is an attempt to provide equal mental health services throughout the counties of each region during that period. The Eastern Iowa Mental Health Region, consisting of Clinton, Scott, Cedar, Jackson, and Muscatine counties, must now work with the Department of Human Services to complete an analysis of the area's mental health, disability, and substance abuse treatment needs to identify funding opportunities.

Initial indications are that Clinton County's levy will fall, while neighbors such as Scott County will receive an increased levy. Rep. Mary Wolfe, D-Clinton, says the three-year system isn't necessarily ideal, but it's a start.

"Something had to be done," Rep. Wolfe said. "I'm glad we were able to at least pass something. Once we're able to figure out how much each county in our region needs in order to begin treating mental health issues and we're able to average out that levy rate, we'll get a clearer picture."

Many legislators, including Wolfe, have vowed that this piece isn't a permanent fix for the lack of mental health services the state is experiencing.

Rep. Norlin Mommsen, R-DeWitt, sees it a little differently. Negotiating mental health bills has been a battleground in recent sessions, which has played a role in the stagnant environment of the services currently offered in Iowa.

That could mean the newly passed bill will remain in place after its initial three years are up.

"I think this will be more long-term than some of us are thinking right now," Mommsen said. "It's just been a real rollercoaster when it comes to pushing legislation like this through, so I think this might be in place longer than we think."


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