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by Ken Rizer State Representative · April 6th, 2017


Iowa's Mental Health and Disability Services redesign created 14 regions with the intent of equalizing services across those regions. Each region is led by a CEO and governed by boards made up of county supervisors from the region's member counties. These regions are responsible for ensuring provision of various "core" services, as well as providing additional "core plus" services. Funding for these services comes from a combination of federal and state sources as well as from property taxes. While counties set their own mental health and disability services property tax levy rates, the majority of regions pool these funds to provide equal access to services for both urban and rural citizens.

Linn County is part of the East Central Region, made up of 9 counties (Linn, Benton, Bremer, Buchanan, Delaware, Dubuque, Iowa, Johnson, and Jones). Due to a quirk in the mental health redesign law, Johnson County is locked at the 1996 property tax levy rate of $21.76 per $1,000 of value, while the other counties in the region were free to increase their levies up to as much as $47.28 per $1,000 of value level. As a result of this disparity, the other 8 counties in the region have been subsidizing Johnson County for mental health and disability services. Johnson County has requested relief from the quirk in the law which would allow them to pull their fair share in the region. This situation is not unique to our region, as several others are in similar circumstances.

Another problem associated with this system is that the instability in the system has caused regions to stockpile enormous cash reserves. Across the state, these cash reserves are over $111 million, which is 84 percent of an entire year's worth of mental health and disability services expenditures! While some cash reserves are necessary, these excessive amounts must be addressed, and those excess monies applied to providing needed services.

As the House Ways and Means Committee lead on this issue, I have been assigned the task to work with the Senate and key stakeholders to provide predictable mental health and disability services funding while solving the problems of inequitable levy rates & excessive cash reserves. We have several proposals on the table, to include a draft Senate bill, and hope to have a House bill next week. With determination and a little luck, we'll solve this problem in the next month in a bipartisan way and secure mental health and disability services funding for next year and beyond.

It's a great honor to serve the people of Marion, Bertram, Ely and the surrounding parts of Linn County. If you'd like to meet, discuss an issue, or visit the Capitol please call me at 319-651-7316 or email me at ken.rizer@legis.iowa.gov.
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