Mental Health News

/ April 12th, 2011/ Posted in Mental Health / No Comments »

Governor expects state to take over costs of mental health services

Governor Branstad expects that over the next four years, the State of Iowa will gradually take over the delivery of mental health services in Iowa — and pay most of the bills, too.

Branstad’s Department of Human Services director has been meeting with legislators of both parties since January to devise a new system that would replace the current hodge-podge of services for Iowa’s intellectually disabled and mentally ill citizens.

“It may well cost some more money, but I think the focus ought to really be on providing the best services, making sure they’re accessible everywhere in Iowa, that we have a uniform system that also provides assistance and treatment for people as close to home as possible.”

Iowa’s 99 counties currently manage and pay for much of the mental health care that’s available in Iowa. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds says one of the problems, however, is that rural Iowans who’re suffering from a mental illness don’t have help nearby.

“Essential services exist only in a few counties,” Reynolds says.

Governor Branstad envisions expanding “telemedicine” services, so rural Iowans could talk with a psychiatrist via video conference. Branstad also expects to provide new state incentives to psychiatrists. “We have a shortage of psychiatrists in the state of Iowa,” Branstad says.

“We need to do more in terms of having more residencies and more opportunity to get that training in the state so they’re more likely to stay here.” A southeast Iowa deputy sheriff was shot last week by a man who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an incident that has been cited by some legislators as an example of why it’s time to address the disparties in the state’s mental health care system. Branstad says there’s no “easy, simple” answer.

“This is an issue that needs to be handled in a very thoughtful way and I think we need to recognize even with the reforms and changes we’re talking about, there’s no assurance that’s going to prevent some tragic incidents like these from happening in the future,” Branstad says.

“But we certainly need to do all we can and we need to make sure the public is also aware of mental health issues and that we’re able to reach out and help people that have problems so we can prevent tragedies as much as possible.” The top Republican in the legislature describes the state’s current mental health care system as a “patchwork quilt” that lacks uniformity.

The top Democrat in the legislature says helping ensure Iowans have access to mental health services “at the local level” is key.

On another topic, the governor says he’s had “several discussions” about a bill which would allow utilities to begin collecting money from customers to finance a possible nuclear power facility in the state. Governor Terry Branstad says he’s confident state regulators would have the ability to monitor the situation and protect rate-payers.

“I think there’s a critical need for us to look at how we can, in the future, meet the additional energy needs of the state of Iowa,” Branstad says. “And I think we should be open to considering things like clean coal and nuclear as well as natural gas and wind, and the other sources that we have.”

Critics say utility customers might see double-digit increases in their bills as MidAmerican examines the possibility of building a new nuclear power facility in Iowa, with no guarantee the facility would eventually be built. Branstad says the bill legislators draft should ensure the Iowa Utility Board has the direct “responsibility to regulate” the rate increases associated with a new nuclear power plant.

“Remember, this is a long, involved process. As I understand it, it would be eight or nine years (before the facility is built),” Branstad says. “But we do need to think ahead and as we work to revitalize the economy and bring more business and jobs here, we want to make sure that we have affordable…power available for our citizens and we want to do it in a way that also is environmentally safe as well.”

A.A.R.P. held a news conference this morning to denounce the bill pending in the legislature, saying it fails to protect utility customers from astronomical increases in their power bills.

Move for smaller veterans mental health clinic

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps to create an out-patient mental health clinic in Fort Wayne, with a budget request for $2.85 million in the coming federal fiscal year and a projected opening in March 2015.

It’s greatly scaled back from a now-scrapped 2009 plan for a $60 million, 200,000-square-foot veterans health facility in Fort Wayne.

The new plan calls for a 27,000-square-foot facility.

An aide to Republican U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana said that the congressman and his staff have been talking about the project with officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Stutzman chief of staff Tim Harris told The Journal Sentinel that the project is “in the early stages.”

The 2012 budget request includes $1.49 million for design and construction costs and $1.36 million for annual rent.

“It’s our understanding it’s a very positive step that it is where it is,” said Harris. “That doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.

“Where it is, we understand, is a good sign. What this says is the Fort Wayne facility has moved up on the priority list.”

At a hearing last Tuesday of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Stutzman asked department officials where the project stood.

“It is our experience that on sizable projects such as that, it’s typically better to construct new in order to get the functionality and capabilities and meet energy requirements,” said Robert Neary, acting director of the department’s Office of Construction and Facilities Management. “If there were a facility available in the area, we would look at it.”

Neary said that after the project is authorized, the department must search for and identify a site, obtain a purchase option and award a development contract for the clinic to be built and leased back to the VA for 20 years.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said in its 2012 budget proposal that it expects an increasing demand for mental health services even as the number of war veterans in the region declines.

4000 candles lit for mental health action

FOUR thousand candles on the lawns of Canberra’s Parliament House spell out a message to the federal government: “Fund hope for mental health”.

In the lead-up to the budget, campaigners are ramping up their plea for the government to make a real difference to the 4.4 million Australians with a mental illness.

And it appears the government is listening.

Mental Health Minister Mark Butler, who helped light one of the 4000 tea lights today, said the government was aware of a growing demand for action.

“There is no doubt that over the last year that sense of uneasiness has gotten a shift and a focus that it didn’t have before,” he told the small crowd.

“Their expectation (is that) their nation needs to do better on mental health.”

Mental health rated as the third most important issue among 1000 Australians interviewed for a survey, behind climate change and the economy, he said.

Labor has vowed to make mental health a priority in its second term of office.

Mental health advocates Ian Hickie and Patrick McGorry, the 2010 Australian of the Year, said Australians should expect a big investment from the government come the May 10 budget.

“There’s absolutely no excuse for not moving on this issue despite all the other atmospherics that are around at the moment,” Professor McGorry said.

But it can’t be expected to go it alone, with Prof McGorry urging the states to do their bit.

The 4000 candles each contained a dedication made by a member of lobby group GetUp!, in tribute to someone affected by a mental disorder.

Mr Butler was also handed a petition signed by 104,052 Australians urging the government to act.

Richmond to Begin Mental Health Court

The Richmond City Jail currently holds more than 1400 inmates. The jail was built to hold half that amount. Richmond Sheriff, C.T. Woody says overcrowding has been a problem for years and one way to fix it, is by getting rid of people who don’t belong there, like the mentally ill.

“The jail isn’t a place for them. They should be in a mental health facility. We can only give standard care. Standard care is not enough for those who are mentally ill,” says Woody.

Nearly twenty percent of those incarcerated at the City Jail are dealing with some form of mental illness and Sheriff Woody says because his staff can’t properly treat those inmates, it makes their job more dangerous.

Those defendants who are mentally ill will have a chance to get evaluated and then, a Richmond judge will have the option of recommending that person be placed under supervision, get treatment at a mental health facility or face jail time.

Sheriff Woody says proper treatment is essential because, “no one who has a mental health condition, that is violent, will be put back out there in the community.”

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