Hubbell Goes Behind Bars to Discuss Iowa’s Mental Health Crisis

DES MOINES, Iowa -- We've seen him on the campaign trial speaking to large groups, and behind the debate podium speaking to the entire state, but today Fred Hubbell took his campaign behind bars.

“Sixty percent of the people here have mental health or substance abuse issues,” Gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell said. “That's going on all over the state. We`ve held meetings like this in seven or eight different county jails because this is where the people are that have these issues.”

Hubbell says jail is where Iowa should focus its efforts to address the state's mental health crisis.

According to the Iowa Department of Corrections, 57 percent of those incarcerated in Iowa prisons have a chronic mental health diagnosis. And offenders with mental health diagnoses are more likely to return.

Hubbell says reducing those stats will come down to money.

“We are going to need to get creative and work together and get common sense solutions that work for all Iowans,” Hubbell said. “I’m happy to work with whoever is in Legislature, Republicans, Democrats, and even Independents to try and get a majority of folks to go forward and actually put some leadership and some funding into mental health and substance abuse.”

A funding increase could involve a tax increase, something Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly agrees with.

“Money. We`ve had the same levy, our population has risen by 200,000 people but it’s been at the same tax rate, the same amount of dollars since 1996. We are doing more services with less money.”

Hubbell hopes to increase services outside these walls, adding mental health beds in order to keep the mentally ill out of the prison system.

“If we had 75 beds across the state spread around public and private partnerships the state can participate getting those up and running. That’s where the state should be involved,” Hubbell said.

“Well first of all, I think they need to look at the tax levy. But they need to give the control back to local control. Let folks decide, what’s best for their own community,” Connolly said.

Hubbell also wants to identify mental illness at the earliest stages. He's proposing a partnership with school districts to screen, identify, and treat mental illness before it becomes a crisis later in life.