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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017

Hubbell: Mental health court ‘a great experiment’

By Ed Tibbetts, Quad City Times | Nov 14, 2017

Fred Hubbell, one of the seven Democrats running for governor in Iowa, praised Scott County’s experiment with a mental health court but stopped short of endorsing state funding for the idea just yet.

Hubbell met with officials from the behavioral health, law enforcement and judicial sectors for a wide-ranging discussion Monday afternoon at Genesis Medical Center’s campus on West Central Park Avenue. The visit was part of a four-day tour he is taking across the state to highlight mental health issues.

Hubbell has begun airing television ads critical of the Reynolds administration on mental health funding.

For the most part, Hubbell listened during the session, as officials talked about the mental health court, a program aimed at providing an alternative to offenders with chronic mental health conditions, along with other challenges in dealing with people with mental health needs.

The mental health court largely relies on the private sector for funding. Quad-Cities Interfaith, along with a grant from Genesis Philanthropy, were integral to getting it started.

Finding an ongoing funding source is critical, officials said. “It’s going to need state funding,” Scott County Attorney Mike Walton said.

Scott County’s mental health court is a rarity in the state.

There is another, in the Council Bluffs area, officials said. However, local officials say it is working, and saving money.

Afterward, Hubbell said it was worth studying.

“In all new things, you want to have a little experience before you try to expand statewide, but from what we’re hearing here it’s a great experiment and it’s working very well,” he said.

Hubbell said that, in other meetings across the state, he is hearing a great deal of concern about mental health services, especially the number of in-patient beds that are available across the state, as well as the number of behavioral health professionals available.

Ken Croken, chief marketing officer for Genesis, told Hubbell that the Quad-Cities is well positioned with the number of in-patient beds it has, and was critical of the State Health Facilities Council’s decision earlier this year to give permission to Strategic Behavioral Health, of Memphis, to build a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in Bettendorf.

Afterward, Hubbell also said that state government ought to allow local communities more flexibility to meet its needs. Scott County, along with other counties in the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Services Region, has been pushing for state approval to give it more authority to raise property taxes to meet its needs.

The legislature gave the region a partial victory last session, but local officials say funding challenges remain.

Citing education as an example, Hubbell said all communities have different circumstances and the state should be responsive to those variabilities.

"We need to give each community more flexibility to determine how to raise the revenues they need and how to spend that,” he said. “And I think that should be encouraged more broadly in state government.”

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