Legislative News May 2012

Legislative news – 05/11/2012

Legislature Adjourns Nearly Three Weeks Late

On Wednesday, May 9, the Iowa Legislature adjourned after a flurry of activity and lots of waiting during the previous three days. As is customary, most of the negotiations took place behind closed doors with only a few key leaders. The conference committees formally met but this was more to satisfy the obligation of the rules than to negotiate outcomes. At the end of the day, mental health reform and the health and human services budget were the big impediments. The Senate amended the House-passed version of mental health redesign, forcing that bill into a conference committee. The limits on the use of Medicaid funds for certain types of abortions bottled up the HHS budget until the last day. Ultimately, the decision was made to strip the Medicaid funding portion of the bill. Medicaid has sufficient funds to continue through April of next year, forcing legislators to again revisit this issue early in the 2013 legislative session.

Below is a summary of the key issues that IMHCA was following during the 2012 Legislative Session.

Social Worker Loan Repayment Program: SF 2243 would have established a loan forgiveness program for those entering the social work profession. This is a perennial bill from the social workers. The bill provided only the framework for establishing a program but no funding. The Senate approved SF 2243 on a 27-23 vote but no action was taken in the House Human Resources Committee. IAMFT was asked for assistance in getting the bill out of the House Human Resources Committee in exchange for agreeing to include marriage and family therapists and licensed mental health counselors in the program. IMHCA was registered as neutral on the bill.

Mental Health Providers: SF 2312 represents the work of the DHS – Courts workgroup on Chapter 229 (commitments). This bill was signed into law by Governor Branstad on April 12. It establishes a common definition of a mental health professional and clarifies in Iowa law that a physician may consult with, or use the services of, anyone who meets this new definition when evaluating and treating a person committed under Chapter 229. Prior to this change, certain professions, such as LMFTs and LMHCs were excluded from providing this assistance. In addition, this new, standardized definition is used extensively in the mental health redesign bill, ensuring equal treatment for all mental health providers within their scope of practice. IMHCA was registered in support of this bill.

Mental Health System Redesign: SF 2315 is landmark legislation that dramatically alters how mental health services are delivered and funded. The goal of the legislation, which is awaiting the governor’s signature, is to regionalize service delivery in an attempt to provide more cost-effective care and a consistent level of services regardless of where an individual lives. Much of this legislation will require rulemaking by the Department of Human Services. As noted above, LMFTs and LMHCs are treated equal to other mental health providers within their scope of practice. Issues that had the potential to exclude some providers or require a patchwork of credentialing and licensing standards were eliminated from the bill. Because funding is provided in this bill, the governor has the authority to item-veto portions. Once Governor Branstad has taken action on this bill, a complete summary of the new system will be provided. IMHCA was registered as neutral on this legislation.

Thank you for all your efforts this year in talking with legislators and attending the joint IMHCA – IAMFT legislative day on the Hill.

Submitted by: 

Emily Piper | [email protected] Piper Consulting Services P.O. Box 12011 | Des Moines, Iowa 50312-2011 Phone: 515-202-7772 | Fax: 866-869-2842