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Smith excited about mental health reform

May 27, 2011
By KEN BLACK - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

A mental health reform bill the Iowa Senate passed Thursday should help improve delivery of services and possibly save taxpayers money, local legislators say.

"I thought those were fairly good changes," said Rep. Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, concerning the bill.

Of course, in a session dominated by opposing parties in each of the two houses of the Legislature, nothing has come easy. Smith said he is hearing at least one prominent Republican on the House side had some concerns about what the Senate did, even though the proposal passed the Senate in a bipartisan way 36-9.

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Despite the misgivings of some legislators, Smith said the issue is important to consider and to do something about.

e-design of the mental health system is very important to do. What we've ended up with is lots of disparities across the state," he said.

For example, county mental health levies range from 21 cents in Dickinson County to $2.50 in Wapello County. Along with that disparity in rates has been a disparity in service, with rural patients not getting the same access as urban patients.

"The eligibility for services has varied across the state," Smith said. "Legislation will start working on trying to remedy those problems and get a uniform system across Iowa."

There will be a legislative interim committee that will review and help formulate the legislation during the next session. Along with that, several workgroups will work on various aspects of mental health service delivery.

The Senate proposal moves the mental health delivery system to a regional system of delivery but the details of that have yet to be worked out. Most of the details will come out in bills introduced during the next session of the Legislature.



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