Task force looks at option of closing one of Iowa's mental health - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Task force looks at option of closing one of Iowa's mental health institutes

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by Danielle Wagner

INDEPENDENCE (KWWL) A 12 member task force created by Governor Chet Culver is visiting Iowa's four regional mental health institutes. The institutes are in Cherokee, Clarinda, Mount Pleasant and Independence.

The task force is set to find out if it's feasible to close one of the institutions while still providing the same number of patient beds. Nationally, there are an average of 17 beds per 100,000 people. In Iowa, there are only 8.1 beds per 100,000 people. Only three states have fewer beds per capita than Iowa.

The MHI in Indepdence has 95 beds. The bipartisan task force is made up of people from across Iowa.

"We will in the end help formulate some recommendations together with the Department of Human Services staff which then goes to the governor and legislature to determine whether or not one of the MHIs should be closed or can be closed. I don't think anybody things there should be a closure," said Foege.

Task force chair Ro Foege of Mt. Vernon said it's not definite one of the institutes will close, but it's certainly a possibility because of budget shortfalls.

Independence MHI's Superintendent Dr. Bhasker Dave gave a detailed presentation to the task force about the services MHI provides. He said the services are essential.

"That patients that are referred to us are referred because they have symptoms which cannot be managed in the local community or they're indigent, meaning no insurance. So we are the provider of the last resort and the safety net for these mentally ill patients," said Dr. Dave.

 Ro Foege and other task force members understand MHI is often a last resort for people.

"When all else fails in local community hospitals and other community facilities this is where people come to. I don't want to lose that safety net," said Foege.

He said no one on the task force thinks Iowa has enough mental health services, but unofrunately, more cuts might need to be made.

The last scheduled meeting for the task force before making a recommendation is November 16.

The Independence MHI opened in 1873. It serves adults, adolescents and children. In terms of services for adults, most are treated for schioaffective disorder followed by depression then schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

Besides those who utilize the services, MHI is the largest employer in Buchanan County. There are about 277 salaried employees. 203 of those live in Buchanan County. 150 live in Independence.

Around 250 community members turned out to a public forum to express the importance of MHI in Independence to the task force.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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