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Iowa lawmakers to consider series of bills aimed at improving mental health resources

Rep. Ann Meyer's proposals include increasing psychiatric residencies and establishing loan forgiveness for new mental health providers.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Representative Ann Meyer (R- Fort Dodge) said she's heard countless stories from constituents on their struggles to access mental health resources across the state. She's introduced a series of bills in an effort to fix that.

The first bill aims to increase the number of psychiatrists in the state. 

"We want the University of Iowa to establish 12 psychiatric residencies throughout the state," she said. "We want four at Cherokee, four for Independence, and four in Oakdale. That will start the pipeline of physicians."

It's a cost of $1.2 million initially, doubling to $2.4 million in the second year with the addition of 12 more residencies. 

The second bill establishes a loan forgiveness program for new prescribing mental health providers in Iowa. Meyer said those practitioners would be required to stay in the state for five years. 

A third bill aims to increase bed capacity in the state by adding 34 adult beds and 14 pediatric beds.

"We are proposing increasing the number of beds at our two mental health institutes in Independence and Cherokee by 50%," Meyer said.

The final bill would establish a Medicaid rate for those needing a higher level of inpatient psychiatric care.

Representative Timi Brown-Powers (D- Waterloo) said while she's encouraged by the bills that have been introduced and looks forward to working with Meyer, she'd like to see increased and guaranteed funding.

"We were doing a $300 million corporate tax credit," Brown-Powers said. "We're starting with a million for mental health. So it's a start, it's kind of a drop in the bucket."

She said she wants to make sure any increased funding won't disappear within a few years.

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