On November 18, staff and residents at Vera French Pine Knoll, a residential facility for individuals with chronic mental illness, were notified that the Iowa Department of Human Services has proposed that residential facilities (regardless of the number of beds) will not be eligible to receive any Habilitation funds (federal Medicaid funds) after January 1, 2016. Without these funds, Pine Knoll will no longer be able to provide vital services to meet the needs of the residents. The current residents (currently more than 40 individuals) would have to relocate to other facilities or programs in or outside of the Davenport community. Due to the significant lack of residential placements for individuals with mental illness, these individuals will most likely be placed in the community, and may be subjected to a lack of necessary care and services. By placing an individual with mental illness at an inappropriate level of care, it can increase the possibility of hospitalization, homelessness, or incarceration, all of which potentially cost more than the current cost of allowing these individuals to remain in their “home” – which is Vera French Pine Knoll.
In less than a month and a half, more than 40 individuals – some of whom have not lived in the community for some time – will be forced out of their current home and mandated to seek alternative mental-health services. This extremely short notice does not provide enough time to relocate current residents to appropriate care settings. Therefore, these changes to Medicaid rules should not be applied. Currently, there is a lack of openings in community-based mental-health services in Davenport and throughout the state due to the limited number of mental-health providers. It is extremely important to note: The state of Iowa ranks 44th out of 50 states in the nation for mental-health provider availability. It is my belief that these immediate and significant changes are unethical and inhumane when there is already a dire lack of services. How would you feel if your loved one, diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia, was doing very well in their “home” – working, interacting with others – and they were told that in approximately 45 days they would be moving, possibly to a location quite far from their current home? They would have to quit their job and would lose all local social connections and support.
You may ask: “What can I do?” We all can have an impact on this issue, which can significantly impact individuals within our community. I urge you to advocate for individuals with mental illness in Iowa. You can make written comments on or before December 1 as follows:
• Write to Harry Rossander, Bureau of Policy Coordination, Department of Human Services, Hoover State Office Building, 5th Floor, 1305 E. Walnut St., Des Moines IA 50319-0114.
• Fax comments to (515)281-4980.
You are also welcome to attend a public hearing at the Scott County Administration Building Boardroom at 600 West Fourth Street in Davenport on Wednesday, December 2, from 1 to 3 p.m. to share your concerns.
For more information on this legislation, you can refer to “DHS Notice of Intended Action, ARC 2242C, items 24 and 25”: https://rules.iowa.gov/Notice/Details/2242C and https://www.legis.iowa.gov/publications/search/document?fq=id:491097&q=habilitation#441.77.25
As Ghandi says, we all need to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” I’m urging you to take action. Mental illness impacts one in four individuals; it may not be impacting you personally, but is likely impacting a coworker, neighbor, or friend.