DES MOINES, Iowa – The largest public employees union in the state along with 20 legislators are suing Gov. Terry Branstad over his closure of two state mental hospitals.
The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan said Monday that they filed suit in Polk County District Court against Branstad and Department of Human Services Director Charles Palmer.
They said the lawsuit seeks to compel the governor and his administration to comply with Iowa law and reopen the Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda Mental Health Institutes.
“Iowa law clearly states that the State of Iowa shall operate Mental Health Institutes in Mt. Pleasant and Clarinda,” state AFSCME President Danny Homan said in a press release. “This was the law when the governor announced his decision to close these facilities. This was the law when the legislature passed, with bipartisan support, the funding to keep these facilities open. This was the law when he closed these two facilities. It is still the law today.”
Joining as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are 20 legislatures: Senator Rich Taylor, Representative Jerry Kearns, Representative Mark Smith, Senator Thomas Courtney, Senator Janet Petersen, Representative Bruce Hunter, Representative Curt Hanson, Senator Tony Bisignano, Senator Herman Quirmbach, Senator Dick Dearden, Representative Art Staed, Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, Representative Jo Oldson, Representative Ruth Ann Gaines, Representative Sharon Steckman, Representative Todd Taylor, Representative Mary Gaskill, Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt, Representative Timi Brown-Powers, and Representative Dave Jacoby.
Governor Branstad’s office released following statement on the lawsuit:
“We understand that Mr. Homan’s top priority is protecting union jobs, but Gov. Branstad’s top priority is ensuring Iowa’s mental health patients have access to modern mental healthcare delivered in accredited facilities. More Iowans have access to quality healthcare than ever before including mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment. Doctors, advocates and mental health professionals all believe that modern mental health care is best delivered locally, in-home or in community-based settings. Mr. Homan and AFSCME may be resistant to change that improves Iowans’ health and eager to sue on behalf of their members to protect the status quo, but Gov. Branstad will continue putting patients first and working to improve care, increase access and modernize our state’s delivery of services.”