Governor Branstad is defending his decision to veto a bill that set aside millions of dollars to counties struggling to provide mental health care services.
State lawmakers included $13-million to fund what they called the mental health risk pool. It was supposed to be a safety net for communities that can't afford to provide basic services.
“We vetoed a small amount of additional state bailout for counties,” says Governor Branstad.
The 13-million is only a fraction of the money the state has invested in mental health services. The Governor says counties have received an additional $115 million in state money over the last two years.
“That's a substantial commitment from the state of Iowa,” he says.
“I wouldn`t say we`re in good shape but we`re in reasonable shape,” says Polk County Human Services Executive Director Lynn Ferrell.
Ferrell says Polk County wasn`t counting on the risk pool funding to provide mental health and disability services to nearly 11-thousand people. But other counties need that safety net.
“If the system has been underfunded for the last 15 years, you can`t fix it one year and you can`t veto the money one year on the grounds that you made a down payment on fixing the system last year,” says Ferrell.
The Governor says more help is on the way. The Iowa Health and Wellness plan is designed to modernize health care and lessen the burden on counties.
“There will be significant federal dollars coming in effective January 1st so we believe the counties have been treated very fairly in this process,” says Branstad.
“We don`t know what the savings will be for the counties, we don`t know how many people will enroll. At this point, we don`t even know how generous or not the mental health benefit will be,” says Ferrell.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness says the Governor's vetoes total more than $30-million. That includes nearly nine million for in-home care waiver services that keep disabled Iowans out of institutions.
The Governor says he made his decisions with the best interest of taxpayers in mind.