Iowa counties partner to serve MHDD clients - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa counties partner to serve mental health and developmental disability clients

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

Betty King was born and raised in Iowa and currently lives in Cedar Rapids.

For the past 30 years, she's been living with Bipolar Mood Disorder.

"I'm very, very fortunate because I did receive social security disability when I applied and I'm well enough and I'm well enough to work about 16-20 hours a week," said King.

She works as a peer counselor helping other people with mental health disorders.

King started up her own project three years ago serving people with mental health issues who were also substance abusers, helping 500 people a month.

But when Linn County made budget cuts to mental health and disability disorder funding, her program lost its money.

"For those people who came regularly it was like a second family to them," said King.  "So when we closed they had no other place to go."

Last year Linn County faced a $5.3 million shortfall in mental health and developmental disability funding.

The department had to stop issuing bus passes and laid off staff to prevent cutting more services.

"It made it very difficult to get things done because we've had a lot of staff layoff," said Mechelle Dhondt, Director of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Now Linn is partnering with Jones, Benton, Iowa, Johnson, Delaware, and Dubuque counties to create a regional network for MHDD services, sharing case management and support costs.

It's made possible by reform legislation passed by lawmakers in Des Moines last session.

"We can learn from them and hopefully they'll learn some things from us, too," said Dhondt.  "My hope is that we can get services back to the level that people need."

Several other counties in Iowa are making similar efforts to create regional networks.

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