Petition against mental health care reform catches State Representative's attention

Mary Gaskill speaks about mental health care reform at the Promise Center in Ottumwa.

Governor Terry Branstad is expected to sign the Mental Health and Disability Service Redesign Bill this Friday. The bill replaces the current system, where each county is responsible for providing mental health programs, to a regional system.

State Representative Mary Gaskill stopped by the Promise Center in Ottumwa Tuesday, after she received hundreds of signatures from members concerned the bill will severely cut funding for resources like the Promise Center.

Gaskill said that funding was the big issue for people across the state. With the new bill, the county levy will be capped for two years. Some counties will see an increase in funds and some will decrease, depending on how they are doing with funding right now. With the cap, Wapello will see less funding than it is used to.

"The funding was the main concern within the whole [bill] and whether or not the state was going to provide enough funds so that we had enough funds to do all the things we needed to do," Gaskill said.

It was the stories of those with mental disabilities or those whose lives were changed by programs and services the Promise Center offers that spoke to Gaskill. Many more of those stories were shared with her Tuesday.

"And I just wanted to come and help them feel more comfortable with what had been done and to assure them that I would continue to work to make sure that we could keep the Promise Center open," she said.

Gaskill also said she was initially against many portions of the Mental Health Care Bill, but she is pleased that the core services were included in the final version. Those core services include mental health prescribing and management, assessment and evaluation, crisis response services and community living services.

The bill provides a two-year time period for additional legislation to pass in the Statehouse. If not, the old uncapped per county levy will be reinstated.