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Mental Health Funding Concerns

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Monday marks the first day of the 2014 session of the Iowa legislature, and it comes with a long list of priorities, including retaining funding for mental health.

Sen. Rob Hogg said one of his biggest priorities will be getting the legislature to hold on to $30 million of funding for mental health that the Department of Human Services recommended be cut last year.

"Let's get to an agreement early on the funding from last year, so we don't have to spend an entire session fighting about that," Hogg said.

Former state legislature Renee Schulte said the state should be able to do that by funneling the money it saves from Medicaid expansion back into mental health.

She also said the state has the chance to spend its money better. DHS is waiting for the results of data from the counties on how much money they have and how much they need.

"Some regions are already predicting a pretty good sized surplus, other areas are struggling, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out across the state," Schulte said.

Hogg said he wants to go a step further and work to re-establish services that were lost. Cedar Rapids might not have needed a facility as big as the Abbe Center, which closed down last year, but he would like to see outpatient services come back to town.

Providers say maintaining funding is crucial.

"These are a forgotten-about group of folks, because unless it's severe, we assume it's something they'll come out of," Karl Cassell, the president and CEO of Horizons, A Family Service Alliance.

Hogg is also hoping to see an increase in education funding, but said, it is unlikely that there will be a gas tax increase this year.
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