Rep. Meyer works to expand mental health care

Introduces 4 bills to Iowa Legislature

Expanding access to mental health care is the objective of four bills recently introduced by state Rep. Ann Meyer.

Some of those bills aim to expand that access by increasing the ranks of mental health professionals like psychiatrists.

“I will not stop working to increase access to mental health care until every Iowan has the access to the quality care they deserve,” the Fort Dodge Republican said.

Mental Health Institutes

One of Meyer’s bills would increase the bed capacity at the state-owned Cherokee and Independence mental health institutes by 50 percent. That equates to 32 more beds for adults and 14 more beds for children and adolescents.

Meyer said the mental health institutes are the “provider of last resort” that can handle violent patients, suicidal people and those in need of detoxifciation.

If the bill becomes law, the state will have to hire personnel to care for the increased number of patients.

Psychiatrist residencies

After someone earns a medical degree, they must undergo four more years of training called a residency, in which they learn a medical specialty.

Meyer has introduced a bill that would direct the University of Iowa to expand its residency program for psychiatry.

“Right now, we don’t have enough psychiatrists in the state,” Meyer said.

She said Iowa ranks 44th out of the 50 states for the number of psychiatrists per capita.

“We need to do something big to increase our pipeline of prospective psychiatrists,” Meyer said.

Her bill calls for creating four new psychiatric residencies at each of these sites: Cherokee Mental Health Institute, Independence Mental Health Institute and the Department of Corrections Iowa Medical and Classification Center.

This new program would cost about $1.2 million a year.

Loan forgiveness

A third bill from Meyer would provide additional student loan relief to physicians, nurse practitioners and therapists with prescribing privileges. However, they must be working in psychiatry to take advantage of this program.

The program has a price tag of $1 million.

Meyer said the proposal can help keep needed psychiatric professionals in Iowa.


The fourth bill from Meyer calls on the state Department of Human Services to establish a new Medicaid reimbursement rate for people needing a higher level of inpatient psychiatric care.

Medicaid is the federal-state health insurance program for the disabled and poor.


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