The Iowa legislature approved moving from a county-by-county mental health system to a regional system. The result was when people moved from one county to another that county would have to shoulder the cost of the new residents. Thirteen million dollars was set aside by lawmakers to help counties during the switch but Governor Terry Branstad vetoed the money. O’Brien County is the first to run out of money for services. Rik Shannon with the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council says it probably won’t be the last.
Shannon says the end result may be that people needing mental health services will have to wait in line.
O’Brien County suddenly had to cover costs for an additional 40 residents, which would put the county a million dollars in the red by the end of the fiscal year. Next year the new federally financed health insurance program kicks in, which the governor says will provide more than enough funding. Many legislators plan to try to reinstate the money which they convene in January; in the meantime additional counties may face the budget shortfall experienced in O’Brien County.