Eastern Iowa mental health services at risk due to $3 million budget deficit

DAVENPORT, Iowa — A three million dollar budget deficit has made the Eastern Iowa Mental Health and Disability Region cut 1.2 million dollars in services in the area. The move comes even as the state legislature has mandated more mental health services.

In a mental health crisis, sometimes people need a refuge like the crisis stabilization residential home in Davenport. Vera French Community Mental Health Center runs the program, but funding comes from the region — five counties pooling their resources as mandated by the state. The eastern region includes Scott, Clinton, Muscatine, Jackson and Cedar Counties.

“It’s five beds, it’s 24-hour care, it’s for people who are in crisis or maybe got turned away at the emergency room,” said Ver French CEO Richard Whitaker. “And when there are cuts to funding or not enough funding to go around, we’re certainly as worried as anybody that possibly these services could either be reduced or go away.”

Lori Elam, CEO of the Eastern Region said the situation is made worse by the $30.78 per capita cap on the mental health levy in the region. The budget shortfall caused the governing board to make some tough choices on what to cut in September.

“That was the most difficult governing board meeting that we had,” Elam said. “And our governing board members took it to heart. They were devastated.”

Elam said administrators are hopeful that the Iowa Legislature will propose a fix to the situation.

“They’ll reconvene in January and look at various options, whether it be raising the levy cap, or providing some additional funding to certain regions that are hitting the wall,” Elam said.

But as the region awaits action from the state, some mental health services in the community could be on a shaky foundation.

 

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