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Gov. Reynolds' campaign responds to claim she is 'ignoring' mental health care

The Hawk Eye - 12/16/2017

Dec. 16--The campaign working to keep Gov. Kim Reynolds as Iowa's chief executive has taken issue with a statement by a Democrat vying for her job, accusing her administration of ignoring mental health care needs in the state.

During a campaign stop Sunday at the Hawkeye Restaurant in Keokuk, gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell said, "Mental health is just basically getting ignored by our governor. You name it and we're not funding it, and we're not even recognizing the issue in our state."

He criticized Reynolds, a Republican, for not attending the Des Moines Register's mental health care forum Dec. 5 (Reynolds sent a video message because she was out of town), for supporting privatized Medicaid and being a part of former Gov. Terry Branstad's administration when he closed two Mental Health Institutes.

Pat Garrett, a spokesman for Reynolds' 2018 campaign, sent a statement Friday to The Hawk Eye, pointing to ways the governor has supported mental health care services.

"Iowa has invested more than $2 billion dollars into the mental health system over the past few years, reformed the system to deliver care in a modern and local way, and today 150,000 more Iowans have mental health coverage than when the governor first took office in 2011," Garrett said. "Gov. Kim Reynolds' administration also recently approved a new 72-bed mental health hospital in Bettendorf, and the number of inpatient psychiatric beds have increased from 721 to 747 since January 2016. That same year, the state also invested $4 million to create three new medical residency programs to train more psychiatrists."

"There's more to do," he continued, "which is why we are focused on concrete solutions and progress to help Iowans in every corner of the state."

The Cedar Rapids Gazette published fact-checks Wednesday looking into these claims, and found them largely to be true.

The newspaper cited a Department of Human Services report from December 2016 that said state and county spending on mental health and disability services "is expected to be about $2 billion for SFY13 through SFY17," about $1.5 billion of which came from the state's general funds.

On the claim that about 150,000 more Iowans have mental health coverage now than in 2011, the Gazette was directed to a DHS report that showed there were nearly 151,000 people enrolled in the state Health and Wellness Plan in 2017.

However, the article points out, "While Iowa's Health and Wellness Plan expanded state access to mental health care, it's not clear if some of the estimated enrollees in the program now didn't have access to mental health care before the state plan started in 2014."

Iowa's Health and Wellness Plan was adopted in 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans, including Reynolds, have sharply criticized.

According to the Des Moines Register, DHS director Jerry Foxhoven also claimed during a budget briefing in November that in-patient psychiatric beds had increased from 721 in January 2016 to the current 747.

When the Gazette researched his claims, DHS cited new beds at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines (which has received donations from Hubbell in the past), Genesis Medical Center in Davenport and Independence Mental Health Institute.

To check Reynolds' claim about new medical residency programs for psychiatrists, the Gazette looked to the Iowa Legislature, which approved $4 million in 2016 to establish programs at three hospitals in Des Moines.

"Let's be clear, we're in a mental health crisis because of Governor Kim Reynolds' mismanagement and failure to adequately recognize, let alone address, this worsening crisis in Iowa," said Remi Yamamoto, a spokesperson for the Hubbell campaign. "The Branstad-Reynolds administration unilaterally closed down two mental health institutes, privatized medicaid which is financially straining providers to closure, and Iowans are not receiving the care and treatment they need, which we know because of the facts: Iowa is dead last in the country for state psychiatric beds per capita, 47th in the number of psychiatrists, and has no state children's mental health system.

"Unlike the governor," Yamamoto continued, "Fred recognizes that our mental health system is failing and has released a plan with real solutions to address it."


(c)2017 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

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