Capitol Notebook: Iowa House seeks to increase number of mental health practitioners

The exterior of the Iowa state capitol building is seen in Des Moines on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (The Gazette)

The Iowa House approved a trio of bills Tuesday addressing mental health issues by funding support for practitioners and adjusting reimbursement rates for providers.

HF 2529 would create a state-funded psychiatry residency program in cooperation with the state’s mental health institutes, resource centers, training school Iowa Medical and Classification Center. It was approved 96-0.

The bill calls for providing financial support for residency positions that are in excess of the federal residency cap. Residents would be required to complete a portion of their psychiatric training at one of the state institutions. The residency grants are to be awarded with preference given to candidates who are residents of Iowa, attended and earned an undergraduate degree from an Iowa college or university or attended medical school in Iowa.

Money would be appropriated to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics beginning in fiscal 2024 in the amount of $1.2 million, and then increasing each year by $1.2 million until fully funded at $4.8 million in 2027.

HF 2546, which would require the Department of Human Services to implement a tiered rate reimbursement methodology for psychiatric intensive inpatient care under the Medicaid, which was approved 96-0.

DHS estimated the change would cost the state between $735,000 and $4.1 million, depending on utilization.

Also approved was HF 2549, which would be appropriate $1.5 million for a mental health practitioner loan repayment program through the Iowa student aid commission.

Mental health practitioners — a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a mental health professional, a physician assistant practicing under the supervision of a psychiatrist, or a psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner — who agree to practice in service commitment areas for at least five years and meet the requirements of the bill would be eligible for school loan repayment.

The bill, approved 94-2, would provide loan repayment of $40,000 annually up to a maximum of $200,000 for a psychiatrist; $8,000 annually with a $40,000 cap for a psychologist or a mental health professional; and $10,000 annually with a $50,000 cap for a practicing physician assistant or a psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner.

UKRAINE SUPPORT: The Senate passed a resolution expressing support for the people of Ukraine.

Senate Resolution 105 expresses the Iowa Senate’s “commitment to its relationship with the Ukrainian people” and its support for “Ukraine’s efforts to remain an independent and autonomous nation.”

The Senate resolution also notes the trading relationship between Iowa and Ukraine, and sister-state relationships between three Iowa communities — Newton, Oskaloosa and Muscatine — and Ukraine cities of Smila, Shpola and Drohobych.

The resolution notes Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustified attack on the people of Ukraine,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “premeditated war.”

“The Senate stands clearly against Russia’s flagrant aggression, authoritarianism and attack on democracy,” the resolution reads.

The House previously approved a similar resolution.

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME: A Senate subcommittee advanced House-approved legislation that would shift Iowa to permanent daylight saving time if the federal government clears states to make such a move.

Despite concerns from mental health advocates, business leaders and broadcasters, the Senate panel advanced HF 2331 to the full Senate state government committee. The bill must pass out of that committee this week to remain eligible beyond this week.

VOTING AGE: The House joined the Senate in unanimously calling for an amendment to the Iowa Constitution lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

Eighteen-year-olds have been voting in Iowa elections since 1972 following the adoption of the 26th Amendment. However, the Iowa Constitution was never amended to reflect that change.

The proposed amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 9, must be approved again by the 2023-24 session of the Legislature before it can be put on the general election ballot for Iowans — 18 and older — to vote whether to ratify he change.

REDISTRICTING: HF 2538 would require that if the Legislature rejects the first redistricting plan created by the Legislative Services Agency, then the Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission must have a public hearing on the subsequent plans before voting.

Under current law, the commission is only required to conduct three public hearings and issue a report following submission of the initial plan. The bill requires the commission to conduct at least one public hearing and issue a report following submission if a second or third plan is needed. The hearings can be virtual or in person.

The bill also requires legislators to vote on the second or third plan no sooner than three days after the commission files its report to the legislature.

It was approved 96-0.

Gazette Des Moines Bureau

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